Hendrick Motorsports officially locked up Jimmie Johnson and primary sponsor Lowe’s to a new deal through the 2017 season. Not that anyone ever had any doubt, but the news is an encouraging one for the Johnson heading into the Chase this weekend.
The six-time Sprint Cup champion’s re-signing was first reported by Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press. Johnson, 39, spoke earlier this year about never having any concern that he would remain with Hendrick, but speculation was still swirling around the NASCAR garage.
“In my heart, Hendrick is my home, Lowe’s is my sponsor and I certainly hope it stays this way until the day I quit driving,” Johnson told Fryer.
I’m employed for two more years!
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) September 14, 2015
Having Johnson back in the stable for at least the next two seasons keeps Hendrick’s stable as one of the strongest in the sport. Joe Gibbs Racing might look like the top for now, but no current driver can touch JJ’s six championships—all coming in a Hendrick Chevrolet.
The new deal also keeps the veteran driver at the top of the organization with Jeff Gordon set to retire. Chase Elliott will need as much support around him in his rookie campaign next year, and will get just that with JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. along with Johnson and JRM teammate Kasey Kahne.
While it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Lowe’s, Johnson’s sponsor his entire career, would remain with Hendrick, 2015 has proved that’s not always true. After Danica Patrick’s sponsor GoDaddy announced it was leaving the sport, primary sponsors no longer looked like a lock. Now that Lowe’s is back on board, the financial backing is there for another championship run.
“My relationship with Lowe’s and Hendrick Motorsports means so much,” Johnson said in a Hendrick release. “To me, this just reinforces how committed Lowe’s is to our sport and to our partnership. It says a lot to have one sponsor and one team for this amount of time. I couldn’t be prouder to represent everyone at Lowe’s and Hendrick Motorsports. This is my home, and I’m looking forward to many more victories together as a team.”
Johnson enters the Chase as the No. 1 seed, but has been far from his normal self recently. His four wins are tied for the most on the season, but the last victory came 13 races ago at Dover. Since that point, Johnson has finished 15th or worse five times, with an average finish of 12.5 over that stretch.
With four wins on the season, he can certainly find a resurgence after the re-signing to compete in NASCAR’s postseason. Currently holding 74 victories in 14 seasons with the team, a record-tying seventh title might be on the horizon for Johnson.