Johnson Shows Next Gen Progression In Kansas Qualifying


Jimmie Johnson in action at Kansas Speedway. (Lesley Ann Miller/LAT for Toyota Racing photo)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – For a few moments Saturday during NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Kansas Speedway, fans got a glimpse of vintage Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion who now co-owns Legacy Motor Club and has stepped back to a part-time schedule, landed his first top-20 starting spot for a race at the top level of the sport in four years.

He was 10th in Group B qualifying and will roll off 19th in the AdventHealth 400, but was inside the 'Fast Five' in his group for more than half of the first qualifying round.

It was the 48-year-old California native’s best time trial effort since the 2020 Coca-Cola 600, the last race of that season that had qualifying due to cost-saving measures adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Considering that this weekend’s appearance at Kansas – a track where Johnson has won three times in his Hall of Fame career – is only Johnson’s seventh start in a Next Gen car, it was a moment that signaled some solid progress for both driver and team.

“It’s just a different world [out there] right now,” said Johnson after his qualifying lap. “The driver had a lot to learn in that short practice session, and I just sent it in qualifying there and it worked out pretty well.

“Some of the sensations in the car that I’m not familiar with didn’t make it very easy,” he added. “The rear end was quivering, which couldn’t have been good … but I was running fast, so I figured we’d see how it held for the corner exits and it held alright. I’m very proud of everyone at Legacy Motor Club for the effort they’ve put in.

“It’s taken longer than we would have liked, but we’re getting there and I’m having a lot of fun.”

Johnson was quick to note that racing in consecutive weeks – the first time he’s done so since retiring from full-time Cup competition at the end of 2020 – is a major benefit for him as he works to adapt to the Next Gen car.

”[Running back to back weeks] has really helped me inside the car, and I look forward to expanding on that this weekend,” Johnson noted during his media session Saturday. “Then coming back for the [Coca-Cola] 600 and a lot more mile-and-a-half tracks that I’ll run this year will be even more beneficial. I know it doesn’t show it now, but being in the car is going to help our competition department as well.

“This year has been more challenging for us in a lot more ways than we anticipated, but I do think we’re getting closer to a consistent pace that we hope to have week in and week out. There’s a real evolution taking place right now, and I’m hopeful that we can show that on track this weekend as a group.”

Though he ran the entirety of his full-time career with Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports under the General Motors umbrella, Johnson is now with Toyota for the first time after Legacy Motor Club switched manufacturers during the offseason.

Johnson cited that move as a big part of the team’s learning curve, though he is increasingly optimistic for the future alongside full-time drivers John Hunter Nemechek and Erik Jones.

“It’s tough to change manufacturers. We have amazing support from Toyota, an amazing collaboration and partnership working with them. But the offseason is short and we’re a small team,” explained Johnson. “Our resources and people have had a lot more work items on the list than work hours in the day or week. But we’re systematically working through it all and growing as a company.

“It’s tough to compete with Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Hendrick (Hendrick Motorsports) and all these big teams, but we’re making steps forward and I’m excited about the future for our organization.”

Newsletter Banner

The ultimate entertainment platform for race fans and collectors to collect, buy, sell, and trade digital MP4 collectible racing cards. RFD is designed to give all racers in all series a chance to promote their brand and connect with fans in the digital world


For Race Face Digital merchandise please visit our online store!

Don't forget to follow Race Face Digital on social media.

About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.