Jimmie Johnson will not have sponsorship from Lowe’s beginning next season, and he could also be without crew chief Chad Knaus. Yet Johnson has no plans to take the easy way out and walk away from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“I’m not done, man. You want me to go away?” Johnson cracked to the media Friday morning at Auto Club Speedway. “I guess it’s the internal optimist that I am – I have more to do and enjoy the process. Hendrick is home and retirement hasn’t been on my mind, and I want to win. I want to win an eighth championship.”
The 42-year-old signed with Hendrick Motorsports through 2020. But the contract situation for Knaus is not clear as his current one is up at season’s end. Johnson even said at the end of 2017 he had “another year” to convince Knaus that they should end their careers together.
“If you look at Chad’s contract it has nothing to do with Lowe’s and where they are, it’s been on its own path and own journey, and just because a sponsor is changing doesn’t change his environment,” said Johnson. “I’m the elder statesmen at a company with three young guys. If was to have this be the end it would put Hendrick Motorsports in a very awkward position.
“I don’t know. There’s just a lot of different ways I could look at it and say that it would be the absolutely wrong time [to leave]. But I guess at the end of the day it’s really my desire to compete and to compete at a high level. I’m not done yet.”
The departure of Lowe’s after this season, announced earlier this week, Johnson called a business decision. And while he would have loved to have ended his career with the same sponsor that brought him to the Cup level, Johnson offered a compliment of everything the company has done for the sport and its longevity in it.
But, Johnson reiterated, “the desire to keep racing is absolutely there. Races, championships, being a part of this great sport of ours. I’m going to be around a while.”
In looking for a new partner on his No. 48 Chevrolet, Johnson said this will be a learning and growing moment. Not only does he want to be involved in the process, Johnson is curious if the relationships he’s made along the way might end up helping.
“Very optimistic about the future and myself and our race team have an opportunity we haven’t had before – to go out and shop our deal and to see what’s out there and what we can do for a branding standpoint for a new company,” said Johnson. “Now that the announcement is out, we can get to work on that and see what the future holds for our team.”