Seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will have one more chance at a record eighth title after announcing his impending retirement Tuesday afternoon 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.
Consider this: 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); Johnson won his seven titles under a variety of postseason formats, from the 10-race Chase to the 16-driver elimination Playoff.
“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 Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.
To accomplish that goal, Johnson will have to rally from a career-worst drought that reaching 95 races with last Sunday’s Championship 4 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. More immediate goals including catching and passing Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison, who are tied for fourth on the career victory list with 84.
Following the announcement, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France issued the following statement, “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. On behalf of my family and the entire NASCAR community, I thank Jimmie for his dedication to NASCAR and, along with his legions of fans, wish him all the best in his final season. I look forward to watching him race for wins and an eighth NASCAR Cup Championship in 2020.”
Johnson currently is tied with his childhood hero, Cale Yarborough, for sixth all-time.
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 eighth championship in earnest.