Jimmie Johnson Might Have Gone Behind Chevrolets’ Back to Foster His Relationship With Rivals Toyota

Published 04/14/2024, 11:38 AM EDT

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Last year, when Jimmie Johnson revealed that he and his team, Legacy Motor Club, would be switching manufacturers, the NASCAR community was taken aback. Considering he’d won seven titles with Chevrolet and became one of its greatest brand ambassadors, the fact was hard to digest. But just as the dust started to settle on the matter, new developments – revealed by Johnson himself – may suggest the beginnings of the Toyota partnership started way earlier.

Today, Johnston has 7 Cup championships and 83 career wins, courtesy of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Yet, he bid farewell to this golden relationship and welcomed Toyota into the fold. While reports suggested that Johnson wanted his team to be higher on the manufacturer’s priority list, could the reason for this shift have been something else?

Jimmie Johnson is warm and fuzzy in his new partnership


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One can argue that Legacy MC’s performance throughout 2023 wasn’t anything to write home about. But if we look at their current state, the margins for improvement remain quite prominent, so much so that in this past weekend’s race, the best the team could do was a 19th-place finish with Erik Jones. This was when Jimmie Johnson was on the track, too. However, the team’s plan with the manufacturer seems to be long-term. But what tells us that this move was a long time coming?

Well, in a pre-race press conference ahead of Texas, Johnson gave brownie points to his Toyota partnership. He said, “I’ve really enjoyed the relationship with everyone from TR in Toyota North America. They race in a different way, and they have very meaningful relationships. I’d call them a true definition of a partnership.” But what he said next inadvertently proved he’d been in touch with Toyota even during the Chevrolet days.

I’ve enjoyed really the last two years of getting to know them and the last six or seven months of working really hand-in-hand with them since the end of last season,” Johnson revealed. I think we have a very long and bright future together. I’m very excited to work with them.” However, there’s no denying there’s a long path ahead to get comfortable with Toyota. Erik Jones’ crew chief, Dave Elenz, said so himself.

After a pretty good start to 2024, things haven’t gone LMC’s way for a while now. With Jones sitting at 20th in the standings and his teammate, John Hunter Nemechek, just ahead in 19th, Elenz reflected on how it’s been with Toyota so far“It’s been really interesting for us getting going with Toyota here. Everybody had higher expectations than what the results have been so far. So that’s been It’s been challenging for us.” However, just like Jimmie Johnson, Elenz is looking ahead.

“I feel like we’ve gained an understanding of where we need to be and are putting together a couple good finishes. But it’s going to take more time for us to get to where we want it to be,” he added. Earlier this year, Johnson revealed that Toyota has been able to get so much information and data across to the team that they’ve had to add additional resources to keep up!


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As reported by Motorsport.com, Johnson said, “We literally had to hire software coders to create the tools that we need… to receive all of this information. We are thankful that they believe in us, and we look forward to taking a big step forward. We know it is going to be tougher as we go, but it is truly a partnership.” While the LMC co-owner’s contentment seems pretty strong right now, seeing Jimmie Johnson’s Cup qualifying race in Texas, could things change?

Johnson and Toyota’s relationship may have holes


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At the start of this season, Johnson had acknowledged that the Toyota shift was tough. Hiring new software coders, creating new tools, and data transfer seemed overwhelming. Now, he has more reason to believe the Toyota bond is going awry.


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During the practice session in Texas, Jimmie Johnson’s No. 84 Toyota got entangled in a wreck. The early mishap relegated him to the 37th spot for the final race. This led Johnson to say that the car “is a bit different – no doubt. I felt like we did a nice job trying to get me ready in the simulator. Unfortunately, I just got a little loose in turn one – I caught it – but it is such a narrow lane that once I caught the car, I was in the wall, and I was kind of along with the ride then.”

We’ll have to wait and see if Jimmie Johnson can manage to bring back his old Chevy charm with his No. 84 Toyota.


Written by:

Sumedha Mukherjee


One take at a time

Sumedha Mukherjee is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports who is known for her in-depth track analysis as well as her lifestyle coverage of Cup drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Inspired by the Kiwi's journey so far, Sumedha has also written pieces on Shane Van Gisbergen, predicting how the Supercars Champion would do in the new and unfamiliar American setting. Pairing her research skills with her vast experience as a writer, Sumedha creates stories her readers can easily get lost in.
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Edited by:

Shreya Singh