In a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career that stretches for nineteen years, Jimmie Johnson has done it all and has firmly placed himself in any conversation concerning the greatest drivers of all time. While he knows that one day after he retires he will take his rightful place in the sport's hall of fame and will have put up some statistics that we may never see again, he still wants to add to those numbers before he crawls out from behind the wheel of his Hendrick Motorsports Camaro for the last time.
Johnson arrived at HMS when his teammate Jeff Gordon was the yard stick for not only the organization but had also become the poster child for the entire series with his youthful looks and the on track success that he was enjoying. Before retiring at the age of 44, Gordon had won four series titles and made 93 trips to victory lane.
That may sound like a hard act to follow for a young driver entering the sport, but Johnson proved that he could not only become the dominant driver in the Hendrick stable but could also dominate the sport. After arriving at HMS in 2002, he began the slow, steady rise to the top. He finished fifth in his first full season and followed that with a couple of second place finishes in 2003 and 2004. He finished fifth in 2005 and the following year he began to put together a string of seasons that the sport had never witnessed.
In 2006, he began a history-making streak as he won his first of five consecutive titles (2006-10). He became the first driver to ever win five consecutive titles. His trophy case still had room for more, though, and he added two more titles in 2013 and 2016. His seven titles put his name alongside two of the greatest in the history of the sport in Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers to win seven times.
He is tied with Cale Yarbourgh with 83 wins on the all-time win list and put together another impressive streak in the sport as he posted at least one win in 16 consecutive seasons from 2002-17. His last win of the 2017 season was at the June race at Dover which is also the last win of his career that began a winless streak that has now reached 74 races.
Since that last win, Johnson has struggled as things began to change not only at HMS but also in the sport as the series now rewards winning more than at any other time. Gone are his teammates Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and now he is surrounded with a very young but talented trio of drivers in Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron.
Change has also come to Johnson's No. 48 team as he is no longer sponsored by Lowe's, which had been his sponsor throughout his entire career. This year he has Ally across the hood of his car and on the front of his driver's suit. He also parted ways with the only crew chief that he ever had in the MENCS in Chad Knaus. The two went their separate ways at the end of the 2018 season. Kevin Meendering took over on top of the pit wagon for Johnson beginning this season and the two have struggled to get the No. 48 back into victory lane.
Johnson's contract with HMS is up in 2020 and there is still plenty of time for him and Meendering to turn their fortunes around but with over half the regular season already completed, Johnson sits in the final playoff spot in sixteenth and could easily miss the playoffs. The quickest way to lock yourself in the playoff field is with a win but Johnson only has one top five on the season and has yet to be in the mix at the end for a race win.
Only 11 races remain before the playoff round begins and it could be that the only way in for Johnson is to break his winless streak and in the process break his tie with Cale Yarborough on the all-time win list. His talent level suggests that a win could occur at any stop on the schedule and when it does it will not only be a great day to be a Johnson fan, but also a great day for the sport.