Seven-time – NASCAR’s most exclusive club

Seven-time - NASCAR's most exclusive club

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Photo by: NASCAR Media

Only three drivers in NASCAR history have ever won seven championships, and each came from distinctly different eras. The ‘King’ Richard Petty won his seven between 1964 and 1979. Dale Earnhardt did it between 1980 and 1994. But Jimmie Johnson did it quicker than both of these titans, winning his seven in a single decade from 2006 to 2016.

2006 – Champion over Matt Kenseth by 56pts

2006 - Champion over Matt Kenseth by 56pts

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Photo by: Kurt Dahlstrom

Jimmie Johnson won his first championship in his fifth full-time season, winning five races en route to the crown. He took over the points lead from Matt Kenseth with just three races remaining in the playoffs, securing the title with five top-two finishes in the final six races of the year. At the time, no one would have believed that he would not relinquish the title until 2011.

2007 – Champion over Jeff Gordon by 77pts

2007 - Champion over Jeff Gordon by 77pts

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Photo by: Motorsport.com / ASP Inc.

In the final race for the Gen-5 cars before the Car of Tomorrow fully took over, Jimmie Johnson would claim his second consecutive championship. He was even more impressive this year, winning ten races and beating his iconic teammate Jeff Gordon in the end. No driver has won ten or more races in a single Cup season since.

2008 – Champion over Carl Edwards by 69pts

2008 - Champion over Carl Edwards by 69pts

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Photo by: Motorsport.com / ASP Inc.

The COT didn’t slow down Johnson any as he and crew chief Chad Knaus collected seven more victories on their way to their third consecutive championship. Johnson took the points lead from Edwards in Race 29 at Kansas Speedway and never looked back, winning the Kansas race despite Edwards’ famous last-corner dive where he bounced off the wall.

2009 – Champion over Mark Martin by 141pts

2009 - Champion over Mark Martin by 141pts

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Photo by: Getty Images

Johnson found himself battling another Hendrick Motorsports driver for the crown in 2009, but this time it was a 50-year-old Mark Martin. After running a partial schedule the previous two years, Martin returned full-time and proved a worthy opponent to his far younger teammate. The veteran driver had been runner-up in the title fight four times before, never emerging on top, but Johnson would make it a fifth as he claimed the championship for the No. 48 once again.

2010 – Champion over Denny Hamlin by 39pts

2010 - Champion over Denny Hamlin by 39pts

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Photo by: Eric Gilbert

2010 was the ‘one that got away’ for Denny Hamlin, but for Johnson, it was just another page in his ever-expanding place in the NASCAR record books. Before the driver of the No. 48, no driver had ever won more than three titles in a row with Cale Yarborough being the only one to ever do it (1976 – 1978). It was unprecedented when Johnson won his fourth straight, but to win a fifth? A feat once thought nearly impossible and even if he never won again, this alone would earn him a place alongside the greats. But of course, he wasn’t done yet.

2013 – Champion over Matt Kenseth by 19pts

2013 - Champion over Matt Kenseth by 19pts

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Photo by: Eric Gilbert

In 2013, NASCAR introduced the Gen-6 car. Johnson started the year off right with his second win the Daytona 500. The last time he won the sport’s biggest race? 2006 — the year he claimed his first title. And like ’06, Johnson found himself battling Matt Kenseth for the crown. The two drivers were neck-and-neck throughout the playoffs, but a stumble in the penultimate race of the year by Kenseth gave Johnson some breathing room, and a ninth-place finish was enough to secure his sixth championship.

2016 – Champion over Joey Logano by 3pts

2016 - Champion over Joey Logano by 3pts

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Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

In 2014, NASCAR introduced a shocking new playoff system. The knockout-style format took a field of 16 drivers and whittled it down to four ahead of the Homestead title-decider. The finale became a winner-take-all event with the four drivers tied in the standings and so, the highest-finishing driver in Race 36 would be named champion. In the first two years of the format, the champion also had to win the race. The problem for Johnson entering the 2016 finale was that he had never won at Homestead before. Well after a late-race crash eliminated title favorite Carl Edwards, Johnson stepped up to the plate and took the lead with just three laps to go, winning at Homestead for the first time and with it, a historic seventh championship.

Seven-time – Among the legends

Seven-time - Among the legends

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Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

Johnson’s seventh championship was likely the most remarkable as he emerged as a contender only in the final few laps of the race, earning his seventh title and placing himself alongside two of the greatest stock car drivers of all time: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. As of right now, no other active driver is even close to this monumental achievement.

Chasing 8

Chasing 8

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Photo by: NASCAR Media

Johnson’s seventh championship came in 2016 and a few months later in June, 2017, he won his 83rd race. The once unstoppable driver occasionally referred to as ‘Superman’ has not won a race since. It is the longest winless streak of his career. This year, he placed 18th in the final standings. And following the 2019 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he announced that 2020 will be his final season as a full-time Cup Series driver, later asserting that his run of mediocre results had nothing to do with the decision.

But regardless of his current winless streak, Johnson’s resume is astounding to say the least. In the video revealing his plans to step away, he included the hashtag #Chasing8. We’ve seen Johnson do the impossible before … breaking records and beating the odds has been the story of his career. Could ‘Seven-Time’ have one last surprise left in him and break the biggest record of them all?

651 starts; 18,834 laps led, 83 wins; 37 poles; 227 T5s; 364 T10s; 7 championships

651 starts; 18,834 laps led, 83 wins; 37 poles; 227 T5s; 364 T10s; 7 championships

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Photo by: NASCAR Media

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