I was never a big Jimmie Johnson fan myself, although I’ll admit it was probably because there for awhile it seemed like he was winning every single week.
But even I can admit that what he accomplished during his NASCAR Cup Series career is just incredible.
After making his debut in NASCAR’s top series at the end of the 2001 season, Johnson scored his first win in only his 13th career start. And from there, he was the man to beat for damn near two decades.
Johnson won his first career Cup Series championship in 2006, which would set off a streak of FIVE straight championships, taking home the title every year through 2010. He would then add two more championship trophies to his collection in 2013 and 2016 to tie the record set by NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for seven championships each.
He would also go on to pass Earnhardt on the all-time wins list, racking up 83 wins in his 686 Cup Series races, putting him at a tie for 6th in the history of the sport.
Yeah, it’s undeniable that for about a decade, the sport belonged to Jimmie Johnson.
So it’s crazy to think that it’s already been five years since Johnson scored his last Cup Series win.
That final career victory came at Dover International Speedway on June 4, 2017 in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. It was Johnson’s third victory already that season, but it would kick off a summer slump that left him limping into the playoffs.
Johnson would make it to the round of 8, but the final race before the championship round found him in a must-win situation if he wanted to keep his hopes at a record-breaking 8th championship alive. Unfortunately for Johnson, it wasn’t to be: He blew a tire in the middle of the race at Phoenix, which knocked him out of the final four heading into the next week’s season finale at Homestead.
He would ultimately finish 10th in the 2017 final standings – a disappointing result no doubt, but one that would end up being his last top 10 finish in the Cup Series standings.
During the 2018 season, much of the talk focused on Johnson’s winless streak, and whether he would be able to keep up his record of 16 consecutive seasons with at least one victory. But Johnson barely made the playoffs, and went winless on the season while settling for a 14th place finish in the final standings.
And 2019 wasn’t any better, with Johnson again going winless and missing the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Entering the 2020 season, Johnson had announced that it would be his last season as a full-time Cup Series driver. But when COVID hit and put the season in jeopardy, everybody began wondering whether or not Johnson would delay his plans so that he could have a proper retirement tour.
But Johnson stuck to his guns, and after a winless 2020 season that saw him finish a career-low 18th in the standings, Jimmie Johnson stepped out of NASCAR and put an end to one of the most impressive runs that the sport has ever seen.
It’s hard to believe that Johnson didn’t win a single race in his final three seasons in the Cup Series – which makes it all that harder to believe that his final win came five years ago today.