Jimmie Johnson didn’t win another NASCAR Cup Series championship. He wasn’t even eligible after missing the playoffs in his final full-time NASCAR season.

But the seven-time champion will take a fifth-place finish in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday for his best race since August. In fact, he had the highest finish of the drivers not eligible to win the championship, finishing behind first-time champ and his teammate, Chase Elliott, along with Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.

It was a small but significant accomplishment, Johnson said, and he didn’t put that together until his daughter pointed it out.

“I didn’t realize that was the case, and [10-year-old] Evie told me that on pit lane,” Johnson explained during his post-race press conference.

“She said, ‘Daddy, I think you won.’ I said, ‘No, I finished fifth.’ [She] said, ‘No, the first four cars were in the championship, and you beat everybody else.’ So she brought it to my attention and had her own version of me winning, which I appreciated.”

Elliott’s title was the first for Hendrick Motorsports since Johnson’s seventh in 2016.

But now that the 2020 NASCAR season is over, Johnson is officially retired from full-time racing after turning the No. 48 Chevrolet into an iconic ride.

After the race, he spoke with NBC Sports with his family about just how much this career finish meant to him. He said:

“My heart’s so full. I’m just so happy to have this wonderful career and so many great people behind me. And first and foremost, this one right here, my wife, Chandra. Been with me every step of the way. My kids, this has just been quite a journey for all of us. My heart’s full, and I’m very thankful for today. Had a great run on the track, and I can’t go without congratulating Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports on another championship. …

“It’s been a great run. I’ve had 19 years in the Cup Series, two years in the Xfinity Series. I’ve met so many wonderful people. I’ve worked for great people, I’ve worked with great people. I’ve learned so many lessons inside and out of the car, and I’m full. This has been a great journey. I’m ready to spend my time a little differently.”

Johnson was one of many on the track to congratulate Elliott on his first championship. At one point, he pulled up alongside Elliott in the winning No. 9 Chevrolet and the two high-fived, like a literally passing of the torch from one Hendrick Motorsports champion to another.

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