Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – CONCORD, NC – Asked about potential new sponsors for his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson seemed positively nonchalant.
“We have six ready to go—we’re just waiting for you guys to ask us when,” the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion quipped during a Thursday question-and-answer session with reporters at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “It’s going really well. We will hopefully have something to announce in the near future.
“But the excitement about the No. 48 car, the multiple companies that are interested and the ideas and the ways that people would like to use us are very exciting and encouraging.”
Earlier this year, Lowe’s told team owner Rick Hendrick it would end its 17-year tenure as primary sponsor of Johnson’s car. The home improvement giant has been with Johnson through his record-tying seven championships and 83 Cup victories, most by far among active drivers and tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough, one of Johnson’s childhood heroes, for sixth all-time.
“Of course, we don’t want to see Lowe’s leave,” Johnson said. “We’ve had such an amazing run with them, and there’s a little bit of fear associated with such a big sponsor and such an integral part of Hendrick Motorsports leaving, but the response has been very strong and very well.
“When Mr. Hendrick makes his decision and we’re able to kind of ink what opportunities are out there, obviously those announcements will be made, but things have been going very well.”
It’s no wonder sponsors are eager to discuss opportunities with Johnson’s camp. If Johnson happens to win an eighth title after 2018—breaking a tie with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr.—an inordinate degree of attention would accrue to the company on the hood of the No. 48 car when that happens.
An eighth championship aside, Johnson is all but certain to eclipse the 84 victories attained by NASCAR Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. Johnson’s current contract with Hendrick extends through the 2020 season.
BRAD KESELOWSKI’S BOSS GETS WELL-DESERVED HONOR
Perhaps no single individual in motorsports has achieved the panoply of accomplishments that has typified Roger Penske’s career.
For his contributions to NASCAR racing, “The Captain” was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday, but driver Brad Keselowski, who delivered Team Penske’s sole Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2012, thinks his owner’s resume is too broad to be readily pigeon-holed.
“He has a legacy that’s harder to define than most everyone else in the Hall of Fame because of his background – not just as a team owner, but he has a background as owning the tracks, his background of owning businesses that can help sponsor the sport, and beyond that,” Keselowski said on Thursday during an announcement of his Checkered Flag Foundation’s support of a jobs initiative through the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
“So he has such a diverse background and there’s really not a part of this sport that I can think of that he hasn’t touched. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that, and it’s great to see him get the recognition of the Hall of Fame.”
Starting with Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Keselowski’s foundation will donate $1,000 to the Paving Access for Veterans Employment (PAVE) program for every Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stage win Keselowski collects through the July 7 event at Daytona International Speedway.
Denny Hamlin topped the speed chart in Thursday’s opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway, touring the 1.5-mile track in 28.401 seconds (190.134 mph). Ryan Blaney was second at 189.673 mph, followed by Brad Keselowski and defending Coca-Cola 600 winner Austin Dillon…
Enhancing FOX Sports’ coverage of Sunday’s race will be a Mega Trax 500 robotic “Rail Cam” capable of going from 0-60 mph in three seconds and topping out at nearly 100 mph. The camera will move along an 850-foot rail behind the inside wall on the backstretch and provide viewers with a unique look at the racing action. FOX Sports tested the Rail Cam successfully at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year.