Legacy Motor Club hopes John Hunter Nemechek will revitalize the team in 2024

Legacy Motor Club is hoping a change of scenery will bring a change of fortunes next season. The reformed team – or club – arose out of Petty GMS Motorsports this season with seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson at the helm, but results have not lived up to expectations.

The flagship No. 43 car, a reminder of the Petty heritage of the team, is currently 27th in the points, down from 19th last season. The team’s second car, the No. 42, is languishing in 32nd in owner points.

In an effort to solve the performance issues, Legacy Motor Club announced in May that the team will be switching from Chevrolet to Toyota in 2024. With fewer teams and cars in the Cup Series, Toyota could offer Legacy more attention than the team received as just another in a long list of Chevy teams.

It also gives them access to Toyota’s development drivers. The top prospect on that list: John Hunter Nemechek.

That’s especially helpful for Legacy’s next-season plans. Exacerbating an already underwhelming for the No. 42 car, its rookie driver Noah Gragson was suspended by NASCAR and released by the team after ‘liking’ a racially insensitive meme on Instagram.

The car has completed the season with a rotating roster of substitute drivers including Mike Rockenfeller and Josh Berry, who will make his own Cup Series debut in 2024.

But with Legacy Motor Club announcing Wednesday that John Hunter Nemechek has been signed to pilot the No. 42 car for 2024, the team at least has steady a steady pair of hands on the wheel.

Nemechek has lit up the Xfinity Series this season, scoring five wins already and is in the hunt for the regular-season title before the Playoff roster is set at Kansas.

He’s also experienced all elements of NASCAR racing, from his hugely successful Xfinity Series run to truck series wins and even a year-long stint in the Cup Series, driving the No. 38 car for Front Row Motorsports.

“We’re excited to have John Hunter in the Legacy Motor Club family and I can’t wait to see what he can do in the No. 42 next season,” said team owner Jimmie Johnson. “He is impressive both on and off the track and will be a great ambassador for Legacy M.C. and our partners.”

In addition, Nemechek will be able to work off of Legacy’s veteran driver Erik Jones, who’s in his third season with the team in its multiple incarnations.

“He will be a solid teammate to Erik,” Johnson added, “and I can’t wait to watch them both compete for wins and championships for years to come.”

Besides his NASCAR results, Nemechek has winning pedigree. His father Joe Nemechek competed in the Cup Series as well, racing alongside Jimmie Johnson as teammates at Hendrick Motorsports early in Johnson’s career.

“John Hunter has been around a racetrack literally since the day he was born,” Legacy Motor Club CEO Cal Wells III explained. “I have watched him since he was a little kid – from walking around the track in a firesuit matching the one worn by his father – to becoming the talent he is today. He is a perfect fit for the Club and I expect great things out of him.”

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – MAY 13: Noah Gragson, driver of the #42 Sunseeker Resorts Chevrolet, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 13, 2023 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

In addition, the move is a strong step in John Hunter Nemechek’s career. His first break in the Cup Series ended ignominiously after poor performances in the No. 38. Coming to Legacy Motor Club is a gamble as well, but the team has strong backing from NASCAR legends and from Maury Gallagher, head of Allegiant Airlines.

“To be able to announce my plans for next season so early and officially say I will be competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series relieves a lot of pressure,” Nemechek said in a statement released by the team.

“There is so much to be done for next year, and this gives us the opportunity to get the news out there and move forward. Also, driving for Maury, Jimmie, and Richard Petty is a dream come true for me,” he added.

Plus, the Toyota support gives Nemechek additional options: Legacy could serve as a stepping-stone to another Toyota team. The deal was only announced for 2024. And there are some veteran Toyota drivers who might leave the sport in the next few years.

Most notably, that’s Martin Truex, Jr., who signed a one-year extension with Joe Gibbs this year after hinting in the past that he’s willing to leave as soon as the sport stops being enjoyable. Nemechek could get the early training to ultimately move to a Gibbs ride with Toyota support at Legacy.

Whatever the long-term plans of Nemechek, and Toyota, he is likely the best prospect available for the team to replace the struggling Noah Gragson.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – MARCH 24: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #84 Club Wyndham Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Netspend Chevrolet, drive during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on March 24, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Also notable for the future of the team is owner Jimmie Johnson’s commitment to continue racing with a “limited schedule” in 2024 in the No. 84 car, according to the annoucnement.

Earlier this year, Jimmie Johnson said his plan for the team is a wholesale change.

“Everywhere,” he said, about which areas need focus. “We want to be way up there, up in the front of the field. So in order to do so, we’ve got a little bit of work to do in all the areas.”

Owen Johnson