Ahead of this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Car finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he needs only to finish 25th or better to win a fourth straight title, Jimmie Johnson announced that he has signed on with his Hendrick Motorsports team and sponsor Lowe's through 2015.
"I'm real excited to announce today that we've signed an extension with Jimmie Johnson through the 2015 season,” said team owner Rick Hendrick. “The key to success, I think is keeping people together. This has been a fantastic ride with Jimmie. He and I have said we'd like to retire together. Lowe's has been an unbelievable sponsor. We're just real excited about keeping the whole deal intact. We just wanted to let you know today that's all done.”
Johnson reckoned that the duration of the team's deals with his star driver and his primary sponsor is a sign of the evolving nature of NASCAR as a major-league sport.
“In the last 10 to 15 years, you've had more sponsors coming in that are using the driver as a spokesman in their marketing,” Hendrick noted. “More so than you did way back when you had tobacco and beer and other sponsors. I think when you get all that chemistry working well, you know, it's to everybody's advantage to keep it going. I don't think you see, again, if a sponsor's going to spend the kind of money that they've spent on Jimmie Johnson, surely they want to perform, but they think long and hard before they make a change.
“So, it's almost like a brand, building a brand with a driver and a sponsor. I think that's why you see these things last. Both the driver, the sponsor and the owner want to get these deals negotiated early so they can get on with business. They're not simple, but they're important."
Johnson agreed that he had no desire to look anywhere other than Hendrick. “The only car I've driven in the Cup Series has been a Chevy. It's been a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and a Lowe's Chevrolet. I'm very, very proud of that stuff,” he noted. “Certainly I look forward to the future, what the years may bring.”
Hendrick indicated that he is close to agreeing on a deal to lock in Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, who has been instrumental to the team's success, working with Johnson since the Californian's first full season in 2002, for a long-term deal as well. He added that Jeff Gordon will also remain with the team as long as he wants.
“Jeff and I have an agreement. As long as he drives in Cup, he's going to drive our car,” Hendrick said. “I'm hoping he's going to drive a bunch of more years. We know it's going to be at least three or four. So we're excited about that.
“Chad has a multi-year deal. Chad and I have talked about retiring together. So we're in the process of getting that all papered. But, you know, I think our goal and everybody's on the same page, keeping this thing together for the foreseeable future.”