NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson retires

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has officially retired from full-time competition now that the 2020 season is complete.

Days after the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season ended and Kyle Busch became the only other multi-time champion among active drivers aside from seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Johnson announced that the 2020 season would be his 19th and final season as a full-time driver in the sport.

Now the 36th and final race of the 2020 season has come and gone, and the 45-year-old El Cajon, California native is officially an ex-NASCAR driver.

The driver of the #48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet retires having won seven championships, tied for the all-time record with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, and he won his seven championships in an 11-year span. Petty won his in a span of 16 years while Earnhardt won his in a span of 15 years.

Johnson also won five in a row from 2006 to 2010. Aside from Petty and Earnhardt, nobody else has even won five championships, period, much less in a row. The longest title streak aside from Johnson’s streak is three, set by Cale Yarborough from 1976 to 1978. Nobody else has won more than two in a row.

Johnson also retires having won 83 races, tied for sixth most all-time with Yarborough and just one win shy of a fourth place tie with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.

He won for the final time back in June of 2017 at Dover International Speedway, so he unfortunately ends his career on a lengthy win drought of 130 races after having never gone more than 24 races without a win until this win drought began.

He was victorious for 16 straight seasons from 2002 to 2017, which is tied for the third longest streak ever with Ricky Rudd (1983 to 1998) and Rusty Wallace (1986 to 2001). It trails only the streaks of Richard Petty (18 from 1960 to 1977) and David Pearson (17 from 1964 to 1980).

Johnson, who qualified for the playoffs in each of their first 15 seasons of existence (2004 to 2018) and is the only driver who can make that claim, also won multiple races in each of those 16 seasons. That only streak of that nature which was longer than his belongs to Petty (18 from 1960 to 1977).

In total, Johnson has competed in 686 races and secured 232 top five finishes, 374 top 10 finishes and 36 pole positions. He has led 18,941 of the 194,170 of the laps he has completed, and his all-time average finish is 13.1.

Johnson won a career-high 10 races and recorded a career-high 20 top five finishes in 2007 en route to his second championships. He recorded a career-high 24 top 10 finishes in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2013.

Due to a positive COVID-19 test in July, he unfortunately saw a streak of 663 consecutive starts, the longest in the sport at the time, brought to an end. The all-time record is 797, set by Gordon from 1992 to 2015.

However, those other numbers may still grow.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out returning to the Cup Series in the future, but he would only do so in a part-time capacity. He signed a multi-year with Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team and is set to compete in the 13 road and street courses on next year’s schedule.

This would open him up to potentially compete in select Cup Series races for Chip Ganassi’s team, especially since they only run two cars in the series so are not at capacity.

Set to replace Johnson behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet next year is Alex Bowman, who currently drives the #88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. As for Johnson’s actual “replacement” in the team’s driver lineup, that is set to be Kyle Larson, who is set to drive the #5 Chevrolet, which hasn’t been used since 2017.