Multiple NASCAR drivers will head to Phoenix Raceway on January 24-25 for another round of testing. Jimmie Johnson will be among this group as he takes his first true laps in the Next Gen Cup Series car.
Johnson will be behind the wheel of the No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet Camaro on January 24 as he prepares for his return to NASCAR. Legacy MC driver Erik Jones will also be in attendance for the session, but Johnson will be on his own testing plan. Jones will be one of the many drivers testing out the proposed aero changes for the 2023 season.
NASCAR fans in the area will have the opportunity to see Johnson back in action. Phoenix Raceway will open its grandstands (January 24 only) from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. There will not be any infield access for the fans, but they will still get to see Johnson and other drivers completing laps around the one-mile Arizona track as they prepare for the jam-packed 2023 Cup Series season.
New NASCAR Rules Made This Test Session Possible
Drivers haven’t had opportunities to take part in test sessions before taking on the Cup Series in recent seasons. However, a rule change made in 2022 made Johnson’s trip to Phoenix Raceway possible.
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck, Johnson’s test falls under the “select driver test” rules. These are the same ones that made it possible for former F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen to test out the Next Gen car before he joined Trackhouse Racing for a trip to Watkins Glen International.
The update to the NASCAR Rule Book went into effect during the summer. Sections 13.2.7, 220.127.116.11, and 18.104.22.168 opened up the opportunity for “Elite” drivers from other racing series to take part in test sessions, provided they met certain criteria. Specifically, these drivers have to be entered into a Cup Series event with a team. They must also receive a voucher from NASCAR.
One interesting twist is that the team can not put on the test session. Instead, another team will have to be in charge. This should not be an issue considering that the two-day session will be put on by NASCAR itself.
The Test Lineup Features a Variety of Standout Drivers
The first official test ahead of the 2023 Cup Series season featured three main drivers. Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, and Austin Cindric all headed to Circuit of the Americas for a session focused on the tires provided by Goodyear.
The next test will feature a variety of drivers from the ranks of the Cup Series. Reigning champion Joey Logano will be on hand as the highest-finishing Ford Performance driver while Ross Chastain and Christopher Bell will represent Chevrolet and Toyota, respectively.
The lineup also includes some select other drivers. RFK Racing driver-owner Brad Keselowski will be on hand, as well as Legacy MC’s Erik Jones. JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will round out the group as he gains experience with his new crew chief, Mike Kelley.
This group of drivers will focus on something else entirely as Johnson gains experience. They will test out a new aero package as NASCAR attempts to make improvements for short tracks and road courses.