With deal through 2020, how realistic is it that Jimmie Johnson wins 100 races?
Unless Jimmie Johnson suddenly walks away, as Carl Edwards did before this season, the seven-time champion will race through the 2020 Cup season.
But was Friday’s three-year contract announcement Johnson’s final deal?
He’s not sure.
“I’ve said it before and continue to say that when the fire does go out, I will step down,’’ Johnson said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. “I don’t have any framework now on a timeline. I just know that I’ve got three more years of trying to go out there and win championships and win races.’’
With seven titles and 83 victories, how much more can he win? Anticipating the Cup schedule remains 36 races a season and Johnson stays healthy, he has 130 races left before his new deal ends.
Johnson’s career winning percentage is 14.9 percent. That has dropped nearly a full percent since the end of the 2012 season.
While many factors can play a role in a driver’s chances of winning — including team, equipment and ability — should Johnson still win at even a 13 percent clip through the 2020 season, that would give him 17 wins and put him at 100. He would become only the third driver in NASCAR history to win 100 or more Cup races, joining Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).
Even if Johnson wins only 9 percent of the races through 2020, that would give him 11 victories and he would have 94 — one more than Jeff Gordon. That would put Johnson third on the all-time list.
“I’ve never honestly been driven by stats,’’ Johnson said. “I’ve said it so many times, but it’s hard to ignore where I sit on the wins list and not let my competitive spirit kick in and want more. Certainly, I would love to climb further up the ladder there. Eight championships, I would love to stand alone at that.’’
At the end of the 2020 season, Johnson will be 45 years old and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him retire.
Mark Martin won five races in 2009 after he turned 50 years old, so it is possible that Johnson, who beat Martin for the title that year, could still win races as he gets older.
Just don’t expect Johnson to be running as long as Martin did.
“We watched Mark race deep into his career and be super competitive, race for championships into his 50s,’’ Johnson said. “I don’t think I’ve got that in me from a time commitment standpoint to go into my 50s in racing.’’
Another factor to consider in Johnson’s quest for more wins and titles is that he has been with crew chief Chad Knaus since 2002. Knaus’ contract expires after next season.
“I’ve said it before, I want to finish it with him,’’ Johnson said. “So, I’ll keep leaning on him. Those crew chief years, I like to call them dog years, I don’t have a clear picture on where that will take him, but I will do my best to keep him around as long as I can.”