Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will have one more chance at a record eighth title after announcing his impending retirement Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 19, on Twitter.
Johnson, 44, will exit NASCAR’s premier series after the 2020 season with a resume that dwarfs that of every other driver in the 21st century.
Johnson won a record five straight championships from 2006 through 2010; he has accumulated 83 victories, all in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, most among active drivers (Kyle Busch is second with 56); and Johnson won his seven titles under a variety of postseason formats, from the 10-race Chase to the 16-driver elimination Playoff.
Johnson, who joined Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the only drivers to win seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships with his title in 2016, has captured two checkered flags at Talladega Superspeedway.
In addition to his win in 2006 over Tony Stewart, his triumph in 2011 over Clint Bowyer by just .002 seconds holds the closest finish in NASCAR history. The win was extra special in the fact he was running fifth as the leaders came off turn four on the final lap, but with the help of drafting partner Dale Earnhardt Jr., he edged past Bowyer on the inside by inches at the finish line.
He has seven top-5 finishes, 13 top-10s, and four pole positions at Talladega. He has led 472 laps at the 2.66-mile venue, but will get to add to that total in next year’s GEICO 500 on April 26. Both of Johnson’s victories at NASCAR’s Most Competitive track came in the spring event.
“I’m so thankful for 18 incredible years of racing in NASCAR,” Johnson said in the Twitter video announcing his retirement. “This sport has been good to me, and it’s allowed me to do something I truly love. I showed up chasing a dream, and I achieved more than I ever thought possible.
“I’m looking forward to next season and celebrating what will be my last year as a full-time NASCAR Cup driver. I know what this team’s capable of, and I hope 2020 is one of the best years.”
The video concluded with the hashtag #CHASING8, indicating Johnson’s determination to try for a championship that will break a tie with Petty and the late Earnhardt.
To accomplish that goal, Johnson will have to rally from a career-worst drought that reaching 95 races with the last Championship 4 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. More immediate goals including catching and passing Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison, who are tied for 4th on the career victory list with 84.
Johnson currently is tied with his childhood hero, Cale Yarborough, for 6th all-time.
Following the announcement, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France stated, “NASCAR history will always hold Jimmie Johnson in the highest regard, for his hard-charging success on the racetrack and the way he conducted himself as a champion off the track. This remarkable seven-time champion – through his competitive spirit, immense talent and sportsmanship – has made NASCAR a better sport.”
With his last victory having come at Dover in June 2017, Johnson hasn’t adapted as well as he would have liked to Chevrolet’s Camaro ZL1, or to the lower-horsepower, higher-downforce competition package NASCAR introduced for the 2019 season. In 2020, however, Chevrolet is racing the Camaro ZLI 1LE, which already has been tested an approved by NASCAR. Perhaps the new model will help provide the impetus Johnson needs to chase an 8th championship in earnest.