This is now how Jimmie Johnson’s final NASCAR Cup Series season was supposed to go. Johnson, announced last November that the 2020 season would be his final as a full time driver in NASCAR’s premiere series.
But, with a global pandemic causing a seismic shift in how races are run, including a majority of them without any fans to witness Johnson’s last trips to their tracks, to Johnson contacting the virus itself and being forced to miss his first race of his NASCAR career, ending a stretch of 663 consecutive starts, to now slipping out of the playoff standings in general, this isn’t the way the storybook ending was supposed to finish.
No one has more championships than Johnson. Only he, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty have won seven titles. Johnson, has 83 trips to victory lane also. Unfortunately, he made need an 84th win in order to even make the playoffs in his final season.
Johnson, went from two points to the good entering the race last Thursday in Kansas to 20 points down at the end. That was his fifth straight finish outside of the top 15 and seven straight outside of the top 10 at that. He hasn’t won a race in 114 races now which is a streak that dates back to June 2017.
With him slipping and guys that have some speed that sit on the bubble, there’s a real chance that in order for him to not miss out on the postseason for a second consecutive year, he’s going to have to win over the next seven regular season races and two of them are in unpredictable events at Daytona.
How’s that for pressure?
From 2003 through 2016, Johnson had double digit top five seasons. Over the last four years now, he’s not eclipsed more than four in a single season.
He won three times in 2017, but most were sort of flukes. He had four top five finishes all year long, meaning only one time other than his wins did he get a top five result. In 2018, he had two top fives. Last year, he had three. This year, was supposed to be a better campaign with Cliff Daniels on top of his pit box. It started off better, but he still only has two top five finishes as we sit today.
I just have a feeling the No. 48 Chevrolet will get back to victory lane soon. This isn’t how his career is supposed to end.