NASCAR has been a sore subject for many people in the last few years. While I have not been thrilled at every moment, I have not been disappointed. My approach and interest in the sport is far deeper and greater than the product produced on Sundays. For instance, the case of Jimmie Johnson.
Jimmie is a 7-time NASCAR champion that has won in many of the variables of point systems in the sport. His primary sponsorship for the last 18 years, his entire NASCAR career, has been Lowe’s. He has been with Hendrick Motorsports and has driven a Chevrolet his entire career. He has had a steadfast and loyal career for both he and all parties surrounding him.
However, earlier this year, news leaked that shocked the sport. Lowe’s would be ending their sponsorship of the number 48 car driven by Johnson. As if that has not been difficult enough to dwell on, Jimmie has not won a race yet this season and is currently 12th in points. This year has also shown the potential strain of having two rookie team mates to teach as well. His third team mate is only in his second year. There is not much experience to go by and all three might rely heavily on Jimmie’s experience, leaving no one for Jimmie to sharpen against. Lastly, for the 2018 season, Chevrolet introduced the Camaro body to replace the SS body. It is an amazing looking vehicle, but any new body style means new aerodynamics and handling. Jimmie and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, have been re-writing the notebook this year in almost every way, instead of referring to the notebook.
I will admit, I have not always been a fan of Jimmie. I used to think all he did was win and I used to prefer the rival sponsor Home Depot to his sponsor Lowe’s. For me, shopping weighs heavily on “which NASCAR team am I sponsoring when I buy here?” However, time has changed my view. I have grown to respect and appreciate Jimmie. He is a true champion. He is humble and calm and has not let success go to his head. He has statistics that rival or better drivers such as Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt. Only this year have I really understood just how much Jimmie has done. I have incredible respect for him. He might not have the public’s or the fans’ true favor as the hall of fame company he has hard fought and rightfully gained status with. That to me is quite baffling.
All of that has me concerned that Jimmie might end up the way Matt Kenseth found himself at the end of the 2017 season. Matt was left with no sponsor, no ride, and not retired. He was simply left, in essence, jobless. While one can speculate as to how and why that happened for Matt, doesn’t it seem at all possible to speculate the same could happen to a 7-time champion? No sponsor at the end of the season, no wins yet currently in the season, 18 years in the sport, the oldest of the team, no experience to draw from, and a newer car that needs time to be dialed in, could be the recipe for a champions swift end in the sport. I am really hoping that is not the case.
Side note. My wife always asks me “Why doesn’t Jimmie Johnson drive the Jimmy John’s car?” There might be hope yet.