BROOKLYN, Mich. — Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has signed a contract extension to remain at Hendrick Motorsports through 2020. And he’s not ruling out an even longer stay.
The 41-year-old Johnson, who won his seventh title in 2016 to match the NASCAR record for championships held by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, is tied for sixth in all-time wins with 83. He has a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup-series high three wins this year, and the extension likely will allow him to challenge Jeff Gordon‘s 93 victories for third on the list.
“When the fire does go out, I’ll step down,” Johnson said Friday prior to practice at Michigan International Speedway. “I don’t have any framework now on a timeline. I just know that I’ve got three more years of trying to go out there and win championships and win races.
“I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been and as focused and dedicated in doing my job. We’ll see how these three years go.”
In addition to signing Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports signed Lowe’s to a one-year extension of its deal to continue as the full-season sponsor of Johnson through 2018.
“Jimmie is one of the best to ever drive,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said in a news release. “We’re so fortunate to have him as part of our organization, and I feel even luckier to call him a friend. He’s a great champion, a terrific advocate for Lowe’s and a true ambassador for NASCAR. There’s no better person, and he’s as good in the race car today as he’s ever been.
“It’s such an incredible success story.”
Johnson made his Cup debut in October 2001 with Hendrick Motorsports, and all of his 557 career starts have come with the team. He has 221 top-5 finishes and 335 top-10s.
“I’ve never, honestly, been driven by stats,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to ignore where I sit on the wins list and not let my competitive spirit kick in and want more. I certainly would love to climb further up the ladder.
“Eight championships? I would love to stand alone. … For me, it’s really about racing. I just love to race.”
The signing of Johnson keeps NASCAR’s most dominant duo together for at least one more year, as crew chief Chad Knaus is signed through 2018. Knaus has guided Johnson throughout his Hendrick career.
“Jimmie was the perfect driver; Chad was the perfect person to lead the team,” Hendrick said. “Every piece of the puzzle just fell into place. It’s been an unbelievable experience to watch it all unfold, and we’ve still got more work to do.”
Johnson does have one specific goal: Get Knaus to sign another extension.
“I’ve got another year to try to convince him,” Johnson said. “He has another year on his contract. I’m sure discussions will take place about an extension for him.
“He at least has another year. I started this with him … and I want to finish with him. I’ll keep leaning on him.”
It’s that bond with his team that keeps Johnson going.
“The experience I have with my engineers, with my team, with Chad — that bond, that experience combined with the experience of driving and competing, there’s a high in that that I’ve chased my entire career,” Johnson said. “That’s why I still get in that race car.
“Some day when that fades, that’s when I’ll step down.”