Nathan Brown | Indianapolis Star | Published 8:30 a.m. ET Feb. 22, 2021
This offseason, Jimmie Johnson has spent as many hours in the cockpit of an American open-wheel car as anyone. But up until now, none of them — the generic-wrapped black Carvana IndyCar livery or the other lower formula cars he’s tested — have truly been “his.”
Monday, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion making his open-wheel racing debut this year unveiled the livery all IndyCar fans will have their eyes supremely focused on for the majority of his road and street course races.
“Of all the cars I’ve raced, this is the one I’ve been driving toward,” Johnson says in the release video.
The mostly black livery features gold detailing up the middle of the car on the aeroscreen, number plate and engine cover with blue wheel covers featuring the American Legion logo, a major multi-year sponsor the team landed in December.
“I’m really excited about this paint scheme. Over the last few years of my career, I’ve found myself much more involved with the look of the cars that I drive and I was very thankful Carvana gave me the opportunity to be involved in the design process of my very first Indy car,” Johnson said in the release. “The collaboration between myself, Chip Ganassi Racing, Carvana and the design group was a lot of fun.
“I’m very excited about our primary paint scheme and also excited about some opportunities we might have in the future to mix things up and keep things fresh.”
On the heels of last year’s season-finale at St. Pete, Johnson and team owner Chip Ganassi formally announced Carvana as the primary sponsor for most of the road and street course races on the No. 48 car for the 2021 season, finally cementing the former NASCAR veteran’s place in the seat. Despite announcing his plans to race for two years with CGR in early September, Johnson and Ganassi had said it always was dependent on finalizing sponsorship.
Of course, that didn’t prove terribly hard for the driver who expects to be quite possibly the biggest storyline of the season as he makes his transition from 20 years of racing stock cars to open-wheel cars full-time at 45 years old.
“To me, it’s just a David and Goliath story, but the new David is the old Goliath,” Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia said in October. “That’s really, really cool, and we’re just really excited to be part of this and to support Jimmie and Chip Ganassi Racing in any way that we can.”
Added Ganassi: “It’s incredible to have a guy so excited about joining our series and such a competitive person with some runway in front of him. To bring in a new company like Carvana is just another feather in both of our caps, and it’s an honor to bring in an industry dealer in as a sponsor.”
Weeks later, series veteran Tony Kanaan was announced as the No. 48 car’s oval-only driver for the next two seasons, taking on this year’s Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader, his 20th Indianapolis 500 and the August race at WWT Raceway.
Longtime CGR partner NTT Data will serve as the primary sponsor on the No. 48 for Johnson at Toronto and for Kanaan at WWT Raceway. Bryant, a longtime Kanaan backer, will be the Brazilian driver’s primary sponsor for at least one race at Texas, and Kanaan will run an American Legion livery for this year’s Indy 500 after the team secured a two-year deal with the nation’s largest veterans service organization in December.