Jimmie Johnson Announces He Will Retire from NASCAR After 2020 Season

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2019

Jimmie Johnson waves during driver introductions prior to the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at ISM Raceway, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
Ralph Freso/Associated Press

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson announced Wednesday the 2020 season will mark his final year as a full-time competitor.

Johnson joined the Cup Series in 2001 and became the full-time driver of the No. 48 car for Hendrick Motorsports the following year. He won five consecutive titles from 2006 through 2010 and also captured the championship in 2013 and 2016.

The 44-year-old California native is tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most titles in history and will have one more chance to take the all-time record for himself in 2020.

Johnson also showcased remarkable consistency throughout his career. He finished no worse than sixth in the final standings across his first 12 seasons and inside the top 11 in 16 straight years.

His performance has dropped off over the past two seasons, though. He ranked 14th in 2018 and 18th this year, which led him to miss the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Playoffs for the first time.

The 2019 campaign also marked the departure of longtime crew chief Chad Knaus after 17 years. Kevin Meendering filled the void to open the season, but he was replaced by Cliff Daniels in July.

When Hendrick Motorsports opted to make the midseason change at crew chief, Johnson said he "questioned myself" amid a string of poor results.

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"There's always room for improvement," he told reporters. "I also know that I'm part of the problem of why the car hasn't had the success that it's accustomed to having. I don't think I'm the problem, but I know I'm a part of it and part of the solution."

Regardless of next season's result, the two-time Daytona 500 winner has solidified his legacy as one of the greatest NASCAR drivers in history. His on-track success even led him to get named the Associated Press' Male Athlete of the Year in 2009.

Although Johnson never became a fan favorite in the mold of Petty and Earnhardt—in large part because of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s popularity—his farewell tour next year should give racing fans a chance to show their support for the generation's most decorated driver.