Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson shakes hands with fans during driver introductions before the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway. It was supposed to be his last Daytona 500 start, but his retirement might be put in hold. Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

The 2020 NASCAR season was supposed to be a celebratory farewell tour for legendary driver Jimmie Johnson.

The seven-time Cup Series champion decided to take a final career lap after 20 seasons on the senior circuit inside the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motor Sports.

Most of the racetracks on the circuit had arranged dedications to Johnson’s remarkable career, but those plans were red-flagged by the global COVID-19 pandemic. NASCAR suspended racing on March 16 prior to a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Johnson, 44, was noncommittal about his future, but didn’t rule out postponing his retirement from Cup Series racing because of the unexpected downtime.

NASCAR intends to complete its full 36-race season once the health crisis has subsided, even it means rearranging venues and bi-weekly races.

“I really don’t have an answer for that just yet because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming months and if we’ll be able to run the full season or not,” said Johnson during a Thursday morning conference call. “I feel like I set out to make 2020 my last full-time year, but I always left the door open for other racing and NASCAR and racing abroad for the future.

“I feel like I’m pretty much on that path. I am hopeful that we can get that going in a month or so or whatever the latest projected number possibly could be and that I can run the season in its entirety. I really don’t have an answer. It’s up in the air just as much as the world is up in the air right now.”

Johnson has competed in 655 Cup Series races, with 83 wins, 36 poles and 366 top-10 finishes.

He was to make his final stop in New England with the running of the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 on July 19 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Johnson has started 34 races on the Magic Mile and completed 9,714 of 10,000 laps. Johnson has three wins there with 10 finishes in the top five, 22 in the top 10, and $4,039,156 in prize money.

NHMS is in the process of finalizing its tribute to Johnson in case the embargo on sporting events is lifted.

“Jimmie Johnson is one of the best athletes in the world and one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history,” said Dave McGrath, executive vice president and general manager at NHMS. “He is a three-time winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a seven-time champion whose legacy will continue for years to come.

“Here in New England his impact included winning races, spending time with fans and running the (2019) Boston Marathon. We can’t wait to celebrate his accomplishments with the fans.”

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