BROOKLYN, Mich. — Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who drives the No.48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, agreed to a three-year contract extension to remain with Hendrick Motorsports through 2020. Hendrick Motorsports also announced that Lowe’s will continue as the primary sponsor of the No.48 team through at least 2018. Johnson spoke about the extensions during a press conference at Michigan International Speedway Friday morning.
“I’ve said it many times, I’m very content with where I’m at in the race car and just truly enjoy competing and love being on the track,” Johnson said. “So, to have a three-year extension makes me smile and makes me excited about the future.”
Johnson said the three-year deal doesn’t mean he’ll stop racing at the end of the extension. “I’ve said it before and continued to say that when the fire does go out, I will step down,” Johnson said. “I don’t have any framework now on a timeline. I just know that I’ve got three more years of trying to go out there and win championships and win races.
"I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been and as focused and dedicated on doing my job. We will see how these three years go and certainly from my standpoint I hope to collect another big trophy and then lots of other race trophies along the way and have some fun.” Asked about the Lowe’s extension, Johnson said: “The long-term relationship with Lowe’s and (to) have them back on for another full season is incredible and a huge statement.”
“I think I’ve got another year to try to convince him,” Johnson said. “He has another year on his contract and I’m sure discussions will take place about an extension for him. He at least has another year and I’ve started this with him and I’ve said it before, I want to finish it with him. So, I’ll keep leaning on him. "Those crew chief years, I like to call them dog years, I don’t have a clear picture on where that will take him, but I will do my best to keep him around as long as I can.”
Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in his final season driving in the Cup Series. Johnson said the sport is always changing, but he has confidence that Rick Hendrick will keep the team competitive in the future. “The biggest thing for me is just knowing how much Mr. Hendrick loves to win and his commitment to winning, his commitment to Hendrick Motorsports,” Johnson said. “Sitting in closed-door meetings I know that there is a lot of options being explored and I know in Rick’s heart that it’s all to put the best four cars on the race track for Hendrick Motorsports and win races and championships. It’s hard to tell where it’s going to go, but my faith is in Rick.”
Johnson said he’s not driven by stats, but did admit an eighth Cup championship is a goal. “Eight championships, I would love to stand alone at that,” Johnson said. “For me, it’s really about racing. I just love to race. The experience I have with my engineers, with my team, with Chad, that bond and that experience combined with the experience of driving and competing … there is a high in that, that I’ve chased my entire career.
"That is still why I get in that race car. Someday when that fades, that is when I will step down. It’s not going to be because of stats and where I rank or how many championships I have, it’s all about that experience in the car. That experience is as cool as it’s ever been and I’m really enjoying it right now.”
Johnson said he doesn’t have a lifetime contract with Hendrick, but does have a handshake agreement not to ever leave. “That was in play at one point in time, but we just elected to go a different route,” Johnson said of the lifetime contract. “Rick and I have always said to one another on our word that I always have a spot at Hendrick Motorsports, and I’ve always told him I’m never going anywhere. Instead of it being necessarily a statement and shown through a lifetime contract we have just had a handshake and agreement among friends that I’ve got a car and I’ve always told him I’m never going anywhere.”
Johnson turns 42 on Sept. 17. He said the doesn’t think there will be many guys driving in the Cup Series into their late 40s in the future. “I think that the lifespan is getting shorter,” Johnson said. “Racing into your 50’s or late 40’s, I don’t think generationally it’s going to continue to go that way.”
“The decisions young drivers make in their personal life and the pressures they have that surround them, there is no telling where it is going to lead them. But you will always have some guys that go deep. I think you will, but I guess again, to answer your question, I think directionally it is getting shorter. "When you look at Junior stepping down and Jeff (Gordon) stepping down — although he was here for a long time, 23 full-time seasons, he left mid-40’s. I think that mid-40 mark is probably more of a trend than late 40’s into the 50’s.”