DAYTONA BEACH – Few athletes have ascended to the top of their sport like Jimmie Johnson, who will be making his 400th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in the 55th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 24.
Johnson’s prolific career rivals – and in some cases, surpasses – those of some of the most prominent talents in NASCAR history.
Eight drivers have won 60 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Johnson was the sixth fastest to reach the milestone when he notched victory No. 60 on Nov. 4, 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway in his 397th start. The five drivers that reached the milestone in fewer starts: Jeff Gordon (318), Darrell Waltrip (321), David Pearson (356), Richard Petty (358) and Cale Yarborough (380). Dale Earnhardt (454 starts) and Bobby Allison (493) also have reached 60 wins in their careers.
Johnson has produced at least two NASCAR Sprint Cup wins per season for the last 11 consecutive seasons, and all of them with the same sponsor – Lowe’s. Only Johnson and Jeff Gordon (DuPont) have had the same sponsor for each of their first 400 starts.
And championships? This is where Johnson has inserted his name in the “Greatest of All Time” discussion. At 400 starts, Richard Petty had two championships and Dale Earnhardt had five. Richard Petty? He had two at 400 starts.
Below is a timeline of Johnson’s career highlights on his way to 400 starts:
- 1 – On October 7, 2001, Johnson made his first series start at Charlotte Motor Speedway, finishing
- 39th. Johnson made three starts in 2001, scoring a best finish of 25th at Homestead-Miami.
- 4 – In his fourth start and first Daytona 500, Johnson sat on the pole, Feb. 17, 2002, he finished 15th.
- 14 – On April 28, 2002 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Johnson, a California native, posted his first victory in just his 14th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
- 100 – On September 5, 2004, at Auto Club Speedway, Johnson made milestone start No. 100. He finished 14th.
- 148 – On Feb. 19, 2006, Johnson wins NASCAR’s biggest race – the Daytona 500. Johnson started ninth in the event – the same starting position he’ll have in Sunday’s race.
- 183 – On November 19, 2006, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Johnson locked up his first of five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.
- 200 – On July 1, 2007, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Johnson made milestone start No. 200. He finished fifth.
- 219 – Johnson won back-to-back titles on November 18, 2007 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
- 254 – On November 9, 2008, at Phoenix International Raceway, Johnson moved into 15th on the all- time wins list after posting his 40th NASCAR Sprint Cup win.
- 296 – On March 21, 2010, at Bristol Motor Speedway, Johnson became the 12th driver to post 50 NASCAR Sprint Cup wins.
- 300 – On April 25, 2010, at Talladega Superspeedway, Johnson made milestone start No. 300. He finished 31st.
- 327 – Johnson became the only driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history to win five consecutive series championships on November 21, 2010 at Homestead-Miami.
- 374 – In a victory at Darlington Raceway in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on May 12, 2012, Johnson delivered Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
- 397 – On November 4, 2012, at Texas Motor Speedway in the AAA Texas 500, Johnson became the eighth driver in series history to post 60 or more wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.