Jimmie Johnson has not given himself a deadline to figure out how long his driving career may continue.
The seven-time champion’s current contract with Hendrick Motorsports goes through the 2020 season. Friday, his car sponsor Ally announced that it had extended its agreement with Hendrick through the 2023 season. Does that mean Johnson will drive for three more seasons after his contract is up? Maybe. Maybe not.
“I don’t have a timeline,” Johnson said. “I personally know that I would like every day that I can before I need to make that decision. There’s a lot of things to look at with the [2021 Cup Series car] coming and the way our team is performing and what we are building. And, I might want to go longer than 2023. I just don’t know. And, I have not put much time and effort into it. There have been many other things to deal with and look at. These things, in the past, a contract renewal would usually start in the spring of the year the contract would end. So, based on past experience, I would say that probably sprint next year is when I would really get pressure to make a decision if I was going to return in 2021.”
Ally joined Johnson’s team after longtime sponsor Lowe’s left at the end of the 2018 season. Lowe’s had been the only sponsor Johnson ever had in the Cup Series.
Johnson, 44, is in the middle of the worst stretch of his Cup Series career. He hasn’t won since the June 2017 race at Dover. And he missed the playoffs this season. It’s the first time he’s missed the playoffs since the postseason format was first put in place in 2004. Johnson would be 48 — his car number — if he extended his contract through the 2023 season.
Johnson was also candid about his career success in an interview with The Athletic posted earlier in the week. Johnson’s most recent Cup title came in 2016, three seasons before NASCAR implemented the lower-horsepower, higher-downforce rules this season. He was asked — through a question provided by fellow driver Denny Hamlin — if he believed he’d have the same career success if NASCAR’s 2019 rules were in place throughout his entire career.
Johnson isn’t sure he would.
“I would tend to think no,” Johnson told the Athletic. “I’ve never been the greatest with low horsepower. High horsepower has always been better. I think my stats would even show that.
“To have the amount of success we did and how we did, those ingredients – from crew chief to team members, the kind of cars we ran – all of that is very much why that happened. So I don’t think I would.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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