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Should other teams be worried about Johnson's losing his sponsor?

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 11, 2018 at 7:39 PM

It grabbed the attention of everyone in NASCAR when Lowe’s announced last month it would be leaving seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team at the end of the 2018 season.

In a statement, the home-improvement giant called the No. 48 Chevrolet team a valuable property and said they looked to invest in other strategic properties.

The announcement marked the end of a 17-year association with Hendrick Motorsports and an even longer investment in NASCAR's top series. Lowe's had the naming rights to Charlotte Motor Speedway from 1998-2009 and they previously sponsored the No. 31 Chevrolet which Mike Skinner drove for Richard Childress Racing and the No. 11 Ford of Brett Bodine for Junior Johnson Racing.

They even sponsored a Lowe's Oldsmobile, which NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson drove at Talladega as a substitute for the injured Dale Earnhardt, in 1980.

To the critics, this is another sign that NASCAR is a "dying sport" if the seven-time champion can't keep his sponsor.

To others like Childress, they say it's just part of the process in how companies change their advertising strategies. He points to how GM Goodwrench left his team in 2006 after two decades as a primary sponsor for Earnhardt and later Kevin Harvick.

Here's what drivers from both NASCAR and NHRA had to say about the subject as the teams come to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend to compete in the Food City 500:

Tony Schumacher, eight-time NHRA Top Fuel champion

"I'm a big Jimmie Johnson fan and I hate it because I know how hard it is to bring new people in. I hope another name jumps up real quick. With our Army sponsorship, ours is year-to-year since it's a government deal. From day one, we approached it as we're going to help you recruit instead of the advertising side.

"For what they spend to recruit, the sponsorship has been more successful than anything they've ever had. They can't be spending millions of dollars and not getting returns. For a beverage company or someone looking to market, it's more about the names on the side and the tv coverage. For the Army, we researched how we could help them recruit and how they could see how much we were doing for them."

Austin Dillon, Daytona 500 champion

"There's good and bad to it. We're gaining sponsors, too. We (NASCAR) just added Busch (for its pole award). Jimmie is an iconic person and they should find a sponsor fast. I'm sure they'll either have a sponsor announcement before too long or they'll wait until after the season to let Lowe's finish out their contract. Who wouldn't want to be a part of Jimmie Johnson's brand and what he's created in NASCAR?"

Matt Hagan, two-time NHRA Funny Car champion

"Whatever our marketing guys are doing in drag racing, it's working because it's been the fastest growing form of motorsports. With our sport, I think the biggest thing is getting someone there. Once they come to a drag race, it sells itself and you don't have to pitch it. You sit in a board room and you can pitch them numbers, but once they see the fan engagement and interaction between the drivers, they see how the fans support their product by buying, tweeting and tagging them. And our spend is not crazy like in some other motorsports. For some companies, that's more realistic."

Ty Dillon, driver of the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet

"I think people are overreacting to the news. If you look at Lowe's business, I don't think it's a Jimmie Johnson or NASCAR thing. There are a lot of things going on with e-commerce taking over for brick and mortar sales. You're going to see a change in sponsorship styles, a change in the companies which come into our sport.

"NASCAR is in a really good spot with enthusiasm as far as youth and we can bring the fun online culture if we stay ahead of this. People talk about the numbers with the viewership declining, but our online and social numbers are increasing. As a NASCAR driver, I want to see us be the first ones to embrace that. We have so much of an opportunity to be a first-person, point-of-view sport. No other sport can you get inside the helmet. But our social numbers are massive and we have to find ways as teams and drivers to sell that to the sponsors."

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