Lowe’s not returning to Hendrick Motorsports for 2019

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Jimmie Johnson has lost longtime sponsor Lowe’s for the 2019 season and beyond, ending a long relationship that dates back to Johnson’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2001. The news was announced via press release on Wednesday.

“Working with Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie, [crew chief] Chad (Knaus) and the entire #48 team has been an incredible journey,” Lowe’s chief customer officer Michael P. McDermott stated in a press release. “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.”

Lowe’s first joined Johnson for a three-race Cup slate in 2001 after spending five seasons with Richard Childress Racing‘s #31 car. Johnson’s first Cup start also aptly came at Charlotte Motor Speedway, then known as Lowe’s Motor Speedway, in the 2001 UAW-GM Quality 500. The 25-year-old El Cajon, California native finished thirty-ninth after a crash. Johnson began racing full-time in the Cup Series in 2002, and kicked off his new career in NASCAR’s top level with a pole at the Daytona 500. He ended his rookie season with three wins, a fifth-place points finish, and runner-up to Ryan Newman for Rookie of the Year honors.

In the years since, he and Lowe’s have enjoyed 83 Cup wins, 35 poles, 341 top-ten runs, and seven championships. In 583 career Cup starts, his #48 Chevrolet has never featured primary sponsorship from other companies. The two have become one of NASCAR’s most synonymous driver/sponsor pairings, in a similar vein to former Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon and DuPont, or fellow seven-time champs Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with GM Goodwrench and STP, respectively. Additionally, Lowe’s was a major sponsor of Hendrick’s Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) operation during the mid-2000s, sponsoring the #5 car most notably driven by current Joe Gibbs Racing star Kyle Busch. When Johnson made his lone Camping World Truck Series start at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2008, Lowe’s came onboard to sponsor his #81 Randy Moss Motorsports truck.

During Charlotte’s time with Lowe’s as title sponsor, Johnson was especially successful as he won six times, including the final Cup race under the name in 2009.

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“We are so appreciative of everyone at Lowe’s. They have been amazing partners,” Rick Hendrick said. “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.”

“I’ll always be grateful to Lowe’s for taking a chance on me and believing that I could win,” Johnson added. “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.”

The 42-year-old Johnson currently sits twenty-sixth in points after a frustrating start to the 2018 season, but he’s not ready to retire yet. In June 2017, he signed an extension with Hendrick through the 2020 season.

“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 will be a big part of writing that story with us. I’m not going anywhere.”

Lowe’s involvement in NASCAR can be traced as far as 1960 when Jimmy Pardue drove the #54 Lowe’s Dodge in 25 races, including that year’s Daytona 500. Over the next three decades, the home improvement chain would only sponsor the occasional one-off for the likes of Cecil GordonRoger HambyDavid PearsonTommy Houston, and Butch Miller. In 1995, Lowe’s began to become a mainstay in the Cup Series as a primary sponsor of Brett Bodine‘s #11 Ford from 1995 to 1996, followed by joining RCR’s #31 driven by Mike Skinner from 1997 to 2001. Although Skinner won two international exhibitions in the car, Robby Gordon delivered Lowe’s first Cup points win in the 2001 New Hampshire 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

A replacement sponsor for Johnson has not been announced.