NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson has announced his retirement from full time racing. The seven time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion says he wants to spend more time with his family. The 47-year-old says he has ten “bucket list” races he wants to drive in 2023, but he’s excited to have a “blank sheet of paper” to star the year.
Jimmie Johnson was introduced to me in quite the unusual way. The first time I heard of him was when the throttle stuck on his Busch Grand National Series car, now the Xfinity Series, during practice at Watkins Glen. The car slammed head on into a tire barrier, and Johnson got out and celebrated as if he had won a race. He was ridiculed for that but would eventually he’d be known as a NASCAR legend. Johnson would win one race in the Busch Grand National Series before moving up to the Cup Series as the handpicked driver by Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon.
LEGENDARY CUP CAREER
The beginning of Jimmie Johnson’s Cup Series career was the exact opposite of his Busch Series career. Johnson won three races as a rookie in 2002 but still finished second in the Rookie of the Year standings. In 2004, Johnson won eight races, including an emotional win at Atlanta a week after the Hendrick team plane crashed killing ten people. But he fell short of his first championship. Eventually, Johnson became the dominant driver in NASCAR. He won five straight championships between 2006 and 2010 breaking the record of three straight held by Cale Yarborough. Johnson cashed in two more titles in 2013 and 2016. He finished his NASCAR career with 83 wins, tied with Yarborough for sixth all time; and seven championships, tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most all time. But Johnson wasn’t done tackling racing series.
In 2021, after racing at least one NASCAR race every year for 20 seasons, Johnson made the jump to Indycar. He raced in the street and road course races in 2021 before running a full season in 2022. It did not go well. Johnson struggled on all of the street and road courses. His runs on the ovals didn’t mirror his success in NASCAR, which runs mostly ovals, but they were still his best performances on the circuit. Johnson announced his retirement just two weeks after the end of the Indycar season saying quote “I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me.”
BUCKET LIST RACES
Johnson mentioned several “bucket list” races that he’d like to tackle before walking away for good. Those include the 24 Hours of Le Mans and “The Double,” racing the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 the same day. Johnson also wants to run some races in the IMSA series or even the six race World Endurance Challenge.
Jimmie Johnson was a controversial figure in NASCAR because he wasn’t controversial. NASCAR is a sport that was formed from the days of prohibition. Johnson, much like Jeff Gordon before him, presented himself as a corporate champion. He was what the suits at NASCAR loved and the fans of so many other drivers hated. The fact that he could back it up on the track made him harder to stomach for some. But he’s a future NASCAR Hall of Famer, a hard-nosed drivers and one of the best to get behind the wheel. Thanks for the memories Jimmie.
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