NASCAR Cup Series
Travis Pastrana Entering Daytona 500 with 23XI Racing
Jan 17, 2023
Daytona International Speedway is the last track where championship crew chief Todd Gordon celebrated in victory lane; leading a regular season finale triumph in 2021. Seven years earlier, he was spraying champagne as a Daytona 500 winner.
Gordon, 53, would love nothing more to refamiliarize himself with the sport’s most iconic celebration next month, with the Legacy Motor Club officially announcing Monday that Gordon is returning to the pit box to lead seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson’s 2023 limited schedule.
And it all starts with the Daytona 500 on February 19.
"I’m really looking forward to working with another champion that still has the desire to compete and win at the highest level," Gordon said. "In my conversations with Jimmie, I found we both miss the competition – but don’t want the grind of a full-time schedule. So this is a great opportunity for us to still race and help Legacy Motor Club build on the success they saw in 2022."
Johnson, who has not competed in NASCAR since 2020, now holds an ownership partnership in the newly renamed and rebranded "Legacy Motor Club" operation, formerly Petty GMS Motorsports. The team already fields the iconic No. 43 Chevrolet for Erik Jones and this season added a second fulltime effort in the No. 45 Chevrolet for NASCAR Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson as the 24-year old moves into stock car’s big leagues fulltime to contend for Rookie of the Year.
The seven-time champion Johnson will drive the No. 84 for Legacy (a reversal of the No. 48 he won 83 races and seven titles with) – and the 47-year old will make his first NASCAR start in three years in next month’s Daytona 500; a race he’s won twice (in 2006 and 2013).
"I’m thrilled to have Todd come on board as my crew chief," Johnson said. "I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him over the last few weeks. I have known and respected him as a competitor for many years and have always appreciated his professionalism, work ethic and results. His wisdom and experience will be beneficial to Legacy Motor Club as a whole."
Certainly, the eight championships, 108 NASCAR Cup Series wins and five Daytona victories between them makes Johnson and Gordon an impressive pairing from the start. Johnson, who competed in 18 seasons and Gordon, who led teams for 10 years stand to be a legitimate combination of experience and success but as importantly now, two highly motivated, vastly accomplished veterans determined to make this new venture pay off.
The two get their first chance to work together formally in a two-day test at Phoenix Raceway in what will be their first competitive look at NASCAR’s second-year Next Gen race car. Johnson is two years out of a NASCAR seat and Gordon left his fulltime job at Penske Racing a year later, after the 2021 season.
Entering the Daytona 500 without a charter and guaranteed starting spot for Johnson’s No. 84 Chevy adds a new level of pressure and different approach to Daytona Speedweeks that this pairing hasn’t really had to experience before working for long-established teams.
But it’s hard to argue that there is any more capable duo ready for the challenge.
"Having the pressure of ‘making the race’ through qualifying and the Duel races is going to be a little stressful with a car that Jimmie and I haven’t worked with yet,’’ Gordon said. “But the team had really good cars on superspeedways last season, so we have great resources, great teammates and a good starting point."
-Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images