After teammate William Byron won Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway to clinch a NASCAR Cup Series playoff berth, Jimmie Johnson was one of the first to congratulate him in victory lane. Johnson ran strong all race until a late incident collected his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE and ended his chances to earn a playoff spot, which he missed by just six points. Two regular season misfortunes proved especially costly to Johnson’s post-season hopes. The team was disqualified after a second-place finish at Charlotte, wiping out 46 points. Then Johnson was forced to watch from the sidelines for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis due to a positive COVID-19 test, collecting no points for the event. If Johnson had retained the Charlotte points and earned 26 more at Indianapolis (his season average), he would have clinched a playoff position following the Dover doubleheader in August. Additional points were lost when Johnson had an accident while leading Darlington in May at the end of Stage 1. Those 10 points would have been enough to advance him into the playoffs
THROWBACK FOR THE AGES:Johnson and primary sponsor Ally recently announced their championship-caliber throwback scheme on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s popular “Dale Jr. Download” podcast. The hood, roof and decklid of Johnson’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE are a tribute to Richard Petty’s iconic “Petty Blue” No. 43 car, while the design on the sides pays homage to Dale Earnhardt’s infamous black No. 3. Johnson also will carry a “7x7x7x” badge on the car that represents the three-way tie of the only drivers in history – Petty, Earnhardt and Johnson – with seven NASCAR Cup Series championships. Click here for more.
PETTY AND CHILDRESS RESPOND:In addition to Johnson unveiling the throwback No. 48 Ally Chevy for Sunday’s Darlington race on the “Dale Jr. Download,” the podcast featured No. 3 car owner Richard Childress and seven-time Cup champion Petty reacting to the tribute. Click here to listen to the podcast titled “Jimmie Johnson: 7×3 Perfection” in its entirety.
INTIMIDATING COMPARISON:While there will never be another driver like “The Intimidator,” a statistical look at Earnhardt and Johnson makes for an interesting comparison. Earnhardt made 676 career NASCAR Cup Series starts, which is where Johnson currently stands following Saturday’s race at Daytona. Johnson has recorded seven more wins and 14 more pole positions than the driver of the No. 3. But in the same number of races, Earnhardt recorded 55 more top-10 finishes, 50 more top-fives and more than 6,700 more laps led than Johnson.
200TH WIN:Fitting for a throwback weekend, Johnson won the milestone 200th win for Hendrick Motorsports at Darlington Raceway more than eight years ago. Starting the May 12, 2012, event on the outside pole, Johnson led 134 of 368 laps, including the final 44, en route to the victory.
ALL HAIL:Johnson revealed his Darlington throwback paint scheme honoring Earnhardt and Petty, and then the rest of the Hendrick Motorsports stable revealed their schemes. The Chevrolet Camaros of Chase Elliott, Byron and Alex Bowman all will pay tribute to their teammate and seven-time champion for his final time racing at Darlington in the NASCAR Cup Series. All four cars can be seen here.
NOT DONE YET:Of Johnson’s 83 wins, 41% have come in the months of September, October and November. He has accumulated 34 victories during those months over the course of his 19 seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series. Presently, there are still big milestones on the horizon. The next time he crosses the finish line first he will have scored his 84th points-paying Cup Series win to tie Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time. Johnson has the most wins of all active drivers.
Driver Jimmie Johnson on keeping a winning attitude entering the playoffs:
“We won’t have the chance to go for eight championships, but I am pretty damn proud of the seven we won. We do have 10 more chances and there are plenty of trophies up for grabs with nothing to lose. Darlington owes me one and we plan to finish this season strong. I’m proud to honor these two legends (Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty) and what they’ve meant to me and the sport with this seven-time scheme at Darlington.”