Legend. That’s the only word to describe Jimmie Johnson.

He’s tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as the only three drivers in NASCAR history to win seven series championships, and Johnson’s winning of five in a row from 2006 to 2010 is a feat that we’ll probably never see happen again.

Love him or hate him, Jimmie Johnson has one of the best statistical records in NASCAR history. With 615 Cup Series starts under his belt heading into the 2019 season, Johnson has won 13.5% of his attempts (83 total wins, for those without a calculator handy) and lead nearly 19,000 laps.

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

NASCAR introduced its Playoff system before the 2014 season, and when you look at the numbers, there’s a direct correlation to the time Jimmie Johnson stopped being so dominant. Yes, you can add age into the equation as well here–Johnson is 43–but let’s just look at the point standing finish of Johnson since this new format was introduced.

SeasonAvg. FinishPoints Standings Finish
201415.311th
201512.810th
201614.01st
201716.810th
201816.714th

For comparison, Jimmie Johnson never finished worse than 6th in the points standings up until the 2014 season. His first full season in the NASCAR Cup Series was 2002, and from then until 2014, his worst season-ending result was 6th.

Yes, the #48 team won the championship in 2016, but Johnson didn’t have the best car in that race, nor did he have anywhere near the best car that season; in terms of average finish that year, Johnson’s 14.0 mark was 10th-best in the series–and only a smidge better than Chase Elliott’s 14.6, NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year that season (and Johnson’s teammate).

And while we’re on the subject of performance, let’s take a look at Johnson’s most recent seasons compared to how he did (on average) during his first 15 years in NASCAR’s top series.

SeasonWinsTop 5sTop 10sFinish
2002 – 2016 Avg.5.314.522.012.0
2017341116.8
2018021116.7

Last season was the first time in his Cup Series career that Jimmie Johnson didn’t find victory lane at least twice over the 36-race season. His single-digit amount of top 5 finishes in both 2017 and 2018 were the only times that has happened since his rookie year in 2002. And 22 top 10 finishes over the last two years combined? Johnson used to average that every single season. Another stat not included in the chart above is number of lead lap finishes: Jimmie had 23 during the 2018 season, his lowest ever.

Yes, Hendrick Motorsports has gone through some big changes over the last year. And, yes, the new Chevrolet engine in 2018 threw a lot of teams a curveball–but that was expected. And even so, Johnson hasn’t performed anywhere near his expected level in quite a long time.

There will be some major changes in 2019 for the #48 team as well, starting with Kevin Meendering taking over as crew chief, breaking up the historic Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus combination for the first time ever.

But if we’re being honest, this seems like a last ditch effort by Hendrick Motorsports to stop the RMS Johnson from sinking. The bad news is, that ship has already hit the iceberg.

As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Enough with the G.O.A.T. talk. JJ won 7 titles awarded for winning the last 10 race portion of the schedule with 80% of those races on the same 1.5-mile tracks. Why should the last 10 races in a season be any more important than the first 10 races?

    True champions win the entire season championships not a 10 race mini schedule.

    The current format is even worse than the farce which JJ won. It is possible to win the first 35 races and finish 2nd in the final race and lose the title. While that is not likely. IF the current format was in place in 1967 when Petty won 27 out of 49 races. Then Bobby Allison would have won the points title instead of Petty.

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