NASCAR America: Kyle Petty on why replacing Lowe’s could be difficult for Jimmie Johnson


NASCAR’s trio of seven-time champions have built vast cache with the companies they represented.

Richard Petty became synonymous with STP. Dale Earnhardt’s connection to the black GM Goodwrench paint scheme was iconic. And Jimmie Johnson has become a fixture as the polished spokesman for Lowe’s the past 17 seasons.

That will change next year as Lowe’s announced Wednesday that the 2018 season will be its last as the primary sponsor of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet. With a Hendrick contract that runs through 2020, Johnson and the team now will be hunting significant sponsorship for the first time since his rookie season in 2002.

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On Wednesday’s NASCAR America (video above), analyst Kyle Petty explained why that might be difficult.

“That’s going to be tough I think,” Petty said. “Richard Petty was an STP driver. I can’t imagine Richard Petty ever being anything but STP. Even though Dale Earnhardt Sr. drove that Wranger car, I remember him as the Goodwrench guy. That’s his brand.

“Jimmie Johnson has tied his brand to Lowe’s. It is Jimmie Johnson, it is Lowe’s, it is Chad Knaus, it is Hendrick Motorsports. If I come in and sponsor the last couple of years of his career, am I just going to be the answer to a trivia question at some time? ‘Who sponsored Jimmie Johnson the last year of his career?’, that type of thing.”

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Johnson, 42, does offer a resume that includes 83 victories (tied with Cale Yarborough for sixth all time) and the record-tying seven titles. And a major selling point could be the history-making possibility of an eighth championship awaiting future sponsors.

But Petty said that success also could work against the search.

“When you’ve had success with a sponsor that they have had, when you’ve had the success of championships and race wins, and you’ve built that brand, it’s tough to rebrand yourself at 40, 41, 42, 43 as a driver,” Petty said. “I think Hendrick, even though (Johnson) is a seven-time champion, even though he can win races, it’s a little bit of a battle. It’s going to take the right company to come in and say, ‘I’ll take this project on.’ ”

Denny Hamlin posts fastest lap in Saturday morning Cup practice

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin had the fastest lap in Saturday morning’s Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, leading the field with a lap of 132.942 mph.

He was followed by Ryan Blaney (132.526 mph), Martin Truex Jr. (132.462), Kyle Busch (132.406) and Kevin Harvick (132.356).

Harvick ran the most laps at 50. Harvick told NASCAR on NBC broadcaster Rick Allen in the garage that he ran so many laps to see how much the speed falls off as the tires wear. Jimmie Johnson was next with 42 laps run.

There were no incidents in the 50-minute session.

Ryan Blaney had the best 10-lap average at 131.767 mph.

Click here for the speed chart.

Start time of Sunday’s Cup race moved up to 1 pm ET

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LOUDON, N.H. – The start time for Sunday’s Cup race has been moved up to 1 p.m. ET because of the threat of rain, NASCAR announced.

NBCSN will broadcast the race. NBCSN’s coverage begins at noon ET.

The forecast for 1 p.m. ET Sunday calls for a 49 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms. There is a threat of rain throughout the day.

Kurt Busch won the pole for Sunday’s race.

Two Cup teams to be penalized practice time Saturday at New Hampshire

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LOUDON, N.H. – Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne each will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for inspection issues, NASCAR announced.

Hamlin is being penalized for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice last weekend at Kentucky. Kahne is being penalized for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice Friday at New Hampshire.

Final practice is scheduled to go from 12:35 – 1:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

NASCAR’s Saturday schedule for New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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Today’s schedule at New Hampshire Motor Speedway includes two Cup practice sessions and the Xfinity Series race at the “Magic Mile.”

Here’s the full schedule with TV and radio info.

(All times are Eastern)

Saturday, July 21

7 a.m. — Xfinity garage opens

8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. — Cup garage open

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (CNBC)

11:05 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (CNBC)

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. — Final Cup practice (NBCSN)

1:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver/crew chief meeting

3:30 p.m. — Xfinity driver introductions

4 p.m. — Lakes Region 200 Xfinity race; 200 laps/211.6 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)