By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
It’s the end of an era.
Lowe’s Home Improvement, which has sponsored Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports since the team came into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2001, announced on Wednesday that they would not be returning to adorn Johnson’s Chevrolet in 2019.
“Working with Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie, Chad (Knaus) and the entire No. 48 team has been an incredible journey,” said Michael P. McDermott, Lowe’s chief customer officer. “Rick Hendrick and his organization have been exceptional partners, and we could not have asked for more from Jimmie – a consummate champion and an incredible representative for our brand and his sport.
“The No. 48 team is a valuable property and has been an integral part of building the Lowe’s brand, which makes today’s decision difficult as we now look to invest in other strategic initiatives. Although we are evolving our strategy, there’s no question that being a part of seven championships and many history-making moments has been valuable for Lowe’s.”
The partnership between Lowe’s and Johnson has seen the brand taken to historic levels of success in NASCAR’s premier division as Johnson has driven his way to 83 career wins (sixth all-time), 222 top-five finishes, 341 top-10 finishes, 35 poles, 18663 laps led, and seven championships, leaving him in a three-way tie with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most Cup Series titles.
“We are so appreciative of everyone at Lowe’s. They have been amazing partners,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “With seven championships, this program has delivered far beyond what anyone could have imagined. It goes without saying that we will fully support Lowe’s and our program together in 2018 as we pursue another championship. The success of the relationship has been unbelievable.
“Jimmie is one of the greatest champions and ambassadors in all of sports and still at the top of his game. This change opens up all kinds of possibilities, and we look forward to having conversations with potential new partners. It’s a special opportunity with an iconic athlete and team.”
While the team will be in search of a new sponsor for the No. 48 team starting in 2019, they will have their star driver around for at least two more years as Johnson signed a contract extension last season that will have him behind the wheel through the 2020 season.
Through the first four races of 2018, Johnson and his team have struggled a bit, starting off the year with finishes of 38th and 27th before rebounding to a 12th place finish two weeks ago in Atlanta, which remains his best finish of the season. Last weekend in Phoenix, he would finish 14th and heads to Auto Club Speedway ranked 25th in points.
“I’ll always be grateful to Lowe’s for taking a chance on me and believing that I could win,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure where I’d be right now if they hadn’t committed to the No. 48 team. It’s hard to see them move on, but we’ve made history together and celebrated so much success on and off the track. There’s still a lot left to do in 2018.
“I have more to accomplish in this sport. I feel the best I’ve ever felt physically. I’m motivated. I’m focused on winning races and chasing more championships. Someone (a new sponsor) will be a big part of writing that story with us. I’m not going anywhere.”