Sunday, February 25, 2024

Jimmie Johnson will join Extreme E for 2024 season; Travis Pastrana will race opener

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Jimmie Johnson will be expanding his racing resume by joining the Extreme E in 2024 — and also give buddy Travis Pastrana an opportunity to make his debut in the all-electric off-road series.

Legacy Motor Club announced Monday that the team would join Extreme E for its fourth season, which will begin Feb. 17-18 in Saudi Arabia.

But because Johnson will attempt to race the Daytona 500 this weekend, he will be miss the first two rounds of the opening weekend. In a series that features men and women sharing the wheel of an electric SUV for each team, Pastrana will be teamed with Gray Leadbetter on the LMC ODYSSEY 21.

“The opportunity to field an off-road vehicle in the Extreme E championship is exciting in many ways,” Johnson said in a release. “We are essentially representing America in this unique and very competitive series and we are committed to the challenge. I’m excited to watch our Legacy Motor Club colors race on foreign soil for the first time while I’m in Daytona for the Great American race. I know Travis and Gray will represent us well and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”

Pastrana, the action sports star who has seven championships across Supercross, motocross and rally racing, is a longtime friend of Johnson’s (having made a foray into NASCAR).

“This all came together pretty quick, but I’m really excited,” Pastrana said in a release. “I have quite a bit of experience in electric vehicles, although I’ve never been in an Extreme E ODYSSEY 21 before. I compete in a lot of off-road events and some desert stuff – mostly on two wheels – but this should be really fun for us. I believe in Jimmie Johnson and in Legacy M.C. and all he is doing with the Club, so when he asked me it was a no-brainer.

“I’ve worked with Gray before and she is a huge talent, so overall it is just a great opportunity for both of us to compete in this championship series together. She’s the top female young up-and-coming talent in Nitrocross and has the speed.”

Leadbetter is a 19-year-old from Morganton, North Carolina, who became the first woman to win a U.S. Pro Class Championship in the Championship Off-Road closed-course series, winning four races. She began competing in Arenacross at 5 years old.

“I’ve always been interested in Extreme E, but just never found the right opportunity to step foot in it,” Leadbetter said. “When Travis texted me last week that there might be a chance to race with Jimmie Johnson and LEGACY M.C., I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I’ve never driven these cars so it’s sure to be an adventure, but I will be in great company. This is a dream come true.”

Andretti Global, which competes through an alliance, was the first American-based team to join Extreme E. Chip Ganassi Racing also had fielded an Extreme E team since its inaugural season in 2021 but recently announced its departure from the series.

The series was founded by Alejandro Agag, who also started the Formula E Series. In addition to promoting gender equity, Extreme E uses its racing platform to hold events around the world to highlight endangered environments affected by climate change. The socially conscious series will switch from electric to hydrogen power in 2025.

“It is fantastic for Extreme E to welcome Jimmie Johnson and Legacy M.C. to the championship,” Agag said in a release. “Jimmie’s credentials speak for themselves, and we cannot wait to see him behind the wheel of the ODYSSEY 21. Jimmie is a proven winner and adds to our already healthy list of champions competing in the series. Racing in Extreme E with his own team is something which excited him, and it is great that Jimmie is also looking towards the future and our transition to Extreme H – the world’s first off-road hydrogen-powered racing series – next year.”

Extreme E will hold its first U.S. event in Phoenix, Arizona, in November. That would harken back to Johnson’s roots. The El Cajon, California, native raced trucks through the desert and on off-road courses before switching to a path that brought him to NASCAR.

After racing IndyCar and IMSA endurance events from 2021-22, Johnson returned to a part-time NASCAR schedule last year. The recently inducted NASCAR Hall of Famer and co-owner of Legacy M.C. now will add another series to his storied career.

“Our goal is to learn as much as we can and see what the future might bring,” Johnson said. “The fact this series competes globally and focuses on sustainably, inclusion and equality really piques our interest. From a technical standpoint, the changeover to hydrogen in 2025 is really intriguing and the entire motorsports community is watching closely. Personally for me as a driver, going back to my off-road roots and to the type of racing I started my career with is going to be a blast.”

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