Billy Johnson to make Cup Series debut at Sonoma

Billy Johnson will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, driving the #43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. The news was released via team statement on Monday.

“It is going to be awesome. It will be my first NASCAR Cup race and to debut in the 43 car, one of the most iconic numbers to ever race in NASCAR, is a huge honor,” Johnson stated. “Richard Petty Motorsports is a great organization. To have the chance to make my Cup debut for the King is surreal, and I appreciate them putting me in the car.”

A sports car racer, Johnson currently competes in the FIA World Endurance and WeatherTech Sports Car Championships, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford division. Prior to Ganassi, he raced for Roush Fenway Racing’s Grand-Am program alongside team owner Jack Roush’s son, Jack Jr. In 2010, the pair won Roush Sr.’s 400th race as a car owner at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“What made that (400th win) even more amazing is that I did it with Jack’s son,” he recalled. “That fact that Jack Jr. was a part of it made it even more special for everyone in the organization.”

Later in the year, Johnson made his NASCAR Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series debut at Watkins Glen for Roush Fenway Racing, driving the #6 Ford. However, he was involved in a multi-car wreck on lap 24 and finished 36th. Over the next three years, he ran part-time in the series as a road course ringer for RFR, recording a best finish of 8th at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2012. His most recent race in the series took place in 2013 at the oval New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he finished 17th.

“I have run a lot of Xfinity races, but this will be my first Cup race. It is awesome that RPM and everyone at Ford Performance has the confidence in me to take on Sonoma. I have run pretty well in the Xfinity road course races I have done, so I hope that translates into a good showing this weekend.”

A member of the Ford Performance division, Johnson is also a driving instructor for the program’s racing school at Miller Motorsports Park, where he has taught the likes various NASCAR drivers in road racing, including NASCAR driver Aric Almirola, whose injury in May has allowed for Johnson to step into the #43 at Sonoma.

Prior to becoming a Ford driver, Johnson drove BMWs; after winning a scholarship at the Skip Barber Racing School in 2003, he raced in the Formula BMW USA series for two years. From 2005 to 2006 and 2011 to 2013, he raced in the Rolex Sports Car Series, winning three races for Turner Motorsport in the BMW M3 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Watkins Glen and Road America. In 2015, after the series merged with American Le Mans to form the United SportsCar Championship, he drove the M3 for one race at Road Atlanta, where he finished 11th.

In 2016, Johnson joined Ganassi’s WEC team, driving alongside Olivier Pla and Stefan Mücke; the Californian was the only American racing for Ford in the series that year. In two starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including last weekend, he has finished 21st and 28th overall, along with 5th and 10th in the LMGTE Pro class, respectively. Johnson has also competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona five times (four when the series was sanctioned by the Rolex Sports Car Series and once under the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship), in which he has a best finish of 7th in 2017.

After Almirola’s back injury at Kansas, Regan Smith and Darrell Wallace Jr. drove the #43 over the next four races. Smith finished 22nd and 34th at Charlotte and Dover, respectively, before Roush’s Xfinity driver Wallace took over the car at Pocono and Michigan. In his two races, Wallace finished 26th and 19th.

The Toyota/Save Mart 350 will take place on Sunday, June 25.

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