Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, PA — July 28, 2019
Entering today’s race at Pocono Raceway it has been 79 races since Jimmie Johnson visited Victory Lane in the NASCAR Cup Series. His victory in the pre-season Clash at Daytona does not count in the official statistics. Winning at Dover on June 4th, 2017 seems like an eternity as the win-less streak continues to grow.
Staying in the Sport Too Long
The King, Richard Petty, spent the last eight years of his career as an also-ran on the circuit. Never posting a win after the July 4th victory, his 200th, in the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Most would say Petty held on too long. Despite the nostalgia of fans seeing the famed #43 at the race track, being non-competitive was a sad ending for the greatest driver in NASCAR history.
Johnson is the winningest driver among active Cup competitors, his 83 career victories rank sixth on the all-time win list tieing him with Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough. His seven Cup Series Championships tie him with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
No doubt Johnson would like to establish himself as the driver with the most Cup Titles. Under the current playoff format, that possibility seems very unlikely. Unless Johnson scores a win in the remaining races leading up to this year’s postseason, he will not make the playoffs. Yes, that’s a pretty bold prediction, but here’s why.
Despite his success in the Daytona Clash, in which he was declared the winner due to the weather ending the event early, Johnson’s year has been disappointing. Not until the 7th race of the year at Texas did he post a top 5 finish.
A fourth at Chicagoland and a third in Daytona last month were followed by finishes of 30th at both Kentucky and Hew Hampshire. No consistency is the reason for predicting Johnson will not qualify for the Playoffs on points. It would be the first time since the current playoff format was established that Johnson would be left out of the championship run.
Jimmie Johnson’s contract with Hendrick Motorsports expires after the 2020 season. No one would suggest that he not be given the opportunity to close out his career with a tour of the race tracks on the current schedule. But, it might be appropriate to announce that now giving fans, track owners, broadcast partners and the sport as a whole the opportunity to say goodbye.
Yes, it’s time for Jimmie Johnson to retire and move on to the next phase of his life. What that will be, who knows. It’s certain to contain an invitation to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.