CONCORD, N.C. — At age 43, Jimmie Johnson has accomplished a lot during his nearly 20-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
He’s a seven-time series champion, one of only three drivers to accomplish the feat. He’s won 83 Cup Series races, which includes victories in the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Southern 500 and Coca-Cola 600.
That success all but guarantees Johnson will be a Hall of Famer upon his retirement, but that doesn’t mean the California native is satisfied. He wants more victories, more trophies and another championship.
In order to do that, Johnson will have to shake off the slump he has been in since mid-2017 that has seen him go winless for the last 76 races, the longest such streak of his career.
“It is challenging. There is no way around it,” Johnson acknowledged Friday.
The challenges have continued this year. Johnson has only earned one top-five result this year, a fifth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in March. His most recent outing at Kansas Speedway resulted in a sixth-place finish, but it could have been much better had a late-race restart gone his way.
“I was pretty frustrated when I got out of the car at Kansas,” Johnson said. “The first half of the race was pretty bad. I brought it back to sixth and was respectable. Then as I took a couple of deep breaths as you probably heard, I realized I was in fourth before that (final) restart. I was hopeful the outside lane could advance and maybe I’d have a look at a win or maybe a second-place finish behind Erik (Jones). It was nice to be back in that moment, but certainly the frustration has come through.
“I’ve never worked so hard to run where I do. I’ve never seen our team work so hard to … not to be able to get back to where we want to in a short period of time. That’s the hard part.”
Johnson will be the first to admit he’s not getting any younger and he knows his time as a driver is closer to ending than he prefers to admit. Therein lies much of his frustration — he knows he has a small window to accomplish the things he wants to accomplish.
“The real reality is I don’t have 10 years left. I probably don’t have five years left,” said Johnson, whose current contract with Hendrick Motorsports expires after the 2020 season. “There is less runway than there was when I first started. I’ve been able to be patient through my career in a lot of ways and it has served me well.
“Now where I am, I don’t have that luxury any longer. If I want a shot to win eight, nine (championships), whatever it is, more wins, I don’t have that luxury. This year is almost halfway through and next year will be here before we know it. I’m just aware of my opportunities to accomplish what I want to. There are just fewer of them left.”
While his contract expires in 2020, Johnson has no plans to walk away. He plans to begin contract negotiations with team owner Rick Hendrick soon so that he can keep doing what he loves for as long as he can.
“I’m not smart enough to walk away. I love what I do. I want to be out there racing,” Johnson admitted.