MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Ally Financial will serve as the primary sponsor for seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson’s car for all 38 races in 2019 and 2020, Hendrick Motorsports announced Sunday on NBCSN.
Ally Financial, which will be on Johnson’s car for the 36 points races and two non-points races, replaces Lowe’s, which had been Johnson’s primary sponsor since his rookie season in 2002.
“This is a proud day for our entire organization,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “Ally has built a tremendous brand by putting the customer at the center of their decisions and doing things right. In the same way, Jimmie has always put people first and handled himself like a champion in every sense of the word. Ally’s full-season commitment makes a powerful statement about their enthusiasm for him, our program and the direction of our sport. It’s an unbelievable fit, and all of us are thrilled to launch what will be a long and successful partnership.”
Ally Financial is a leading digital financial services company. Ally’s full scope of financial services offerings includes its award-winning online bank, auto finance and insurance businesses, digital wealth management and online brokerage platform, mortgage-lending services, and Corporate Finance operation.
“We are beyond thrilled to be in the fast lane with Jimmie Johnson, one of the most successful drivers in the history of NASCAR, and with Hendrick Motorsports, a premier organization in professional sports,” said Jeffrey Brown, CEO at Ally, in a statement. “Both share Ally’s passion for delivering results for our customers and for our communities, with a deep commitment to ‘do it right’ for the people who count on us most. We look forward to working with this extraordinary team to build a strong and successful relationship as Ally enters this exciting sport.”
Said Johnson, who is signed with Hendrick through the 2020 season, in a statement: “The opportunity to work with a partner like Ally is incredible. Their commitment to leading in both the workplace and the community is something that resonates with me in a big way. They’ve sent a strong message about how much they believe in me and in our team, and I will do my part to make sure it’s the best investment they’ve ever made. I’m ready to chase more history with Ally on board the ‘48.’”
Hendrick Motorsports states that this announcement is the organization’s 17th new partner or renewal this season. That list includes Axalta (renewal through 2022), Hertz (new partner through 2019), Hooters (renewal through 2021), Mountain Dew (renewal through 2020), NAPA Auto Parts (renewal through 2020), Nationwide (renewal through 2020), Club Car (new partner through 2020) and Valvoline (renewal through 2022).
Axalta and Hendrick Motorsports announced a four-year extension of their relationship through 2022, continuing a 26-year partnership.
Axalta, a supplier of liquid and powder coatings, will serve as a 25-race primary sponsor of Hendrick over the next two years. Axalta will sponsor Alex Bowman (15 races in 2018 and 12 races in 2019) and William Byron (10 races in 2018 and 13 races in 2019).
Schedules for the 2020-2022 seasons will be announced at a later date.
Axalta, formerly known as DuPont, has been with Hendrick since November 1992 when it sponsored Jeff Gordon in his first Cup start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gordon went on to win four Cup titles with Axalta as his primary sponsor.
Last May, Axalta opened a 36,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Customer Experience Center on the HMS campus outside Charlotte, North Carolina, to enable customers to train and be part of a full racing experience.
“We are so proud of our partnership with Axalta,” said Rick Hendrick in a press release. “Their long-term commitment to our organization and our sport as a whole has been unbelievable. They are constantly innovating and investing to keep the program fresh, enhance the experience for their customers and ultimately drive value for their business. Projects like the Customer Experience Center on our campus are unprecedented and reinforce the strength of our relationship. We’ve worked together for more than a quarter of a century, and I believe it’s just the beginning.”
That means that Hendrick Motorsports will have the following major primary sponsorships ending after next season: Lowe’s (Jimmie Johnson), Nationwide (Alex Bowman), Axalta (Bowman) and NAPA (Chase Elliott).
Those companies serve as a primary sponsor for a combined 94 points races next season:
Lowe’s will do 36 races, sharing some with vendors, on Johnson’s car.
NAPA will do 24 races on Elliott’s car.
Nationwide will do 19 races on Bowman’s car.
Axalta will increase its total by two to 15 on Bowman’s car next season.
And there’s more.
SunEnergy1’s deal of four races ayear on Elliott’s car expires after the 2018 season.
Mountain Dew’s deal expires after the 2018 season and includes sponsorship of the cars of Earnhardt/Bowman, Kasey Kahne and Elliott, representing eight races total.
Rarely does an organization have so many significant sponsor deals end at the same time.
And there’s the fact that Hendrick Motorsports has yet to announce replacements on Kasey Kahne’s car with Farmer’s Bank Insurance not returning when its deal expires after this season, and Great Clips ending its agreement after this year. Those companies are scheduled to serve as the primary sponsor for 22 races this year.
Despite the challenges Hendrick Motorsports seems to be facing, it helps that the organization has done well in retaining sponsors — Axalta has been with the company since 1992 and Lowe’s since 2001 — but there are no guarantees. Lowe’s extension did not match the three-year extension Johnson signed. In 2015, both Johnson and Lowe’s signed two-year extensions. Before that deal, Johnson signed a five-year extension and Lowe’s signed a three-year deal, following with a two-year extension to later match Johnson’s contract length.
Nationwide and NAPA don’t have as long a history with Hendrick Motorsports as Axalta and Lowe’s.
Nationwide sponsored what is now the Xfinity Series from 2008-14 before becoming the primary sponsor of Earnhardt’s No. 88 car in 2015.
NAPA, which severed ties with Michael Waltrip Racing for its involvement in a team order scandal at Richmond in 2013, partnered with Elliott in 2014 when he was at JR Motorsports and followed him to Cup at Hendrick Motorsports.
With 16 months before the 2018 season ends, there’s plenty of time for Hendrick Motorsports to extend deals with each company or find others. Still, there is much work ahead. The pressure will be on to get those deals done in a timely manner.
Nationwide will return as a sponsor of the No. 88 car next year with Alex Bowman taking over the ride for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday.
The team also announced that Axalta will sponsor the car in 15 races, an increase of two from this season. Axalta’s contract goes through the 2018 season. Axalta has been with Hendrick Motorsports since 1992 and a sponsor of the No. 88 car since 2016.
“Our relationship with Nationwide is unbelievable,’’ car owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. “They have a true passion for NASCAR and our fans, and to have them extend with us is gratifying for our whole team. It’s also a credit to the way Alex carried himself last season and built lasting relationships. We’re fortunate to work with partners like Nationwide and Axalta that have built impactful, enduring programs around the countless opportunities our sport provides.”
Nationwide’s contract was to have expired after this season. The company is serving as the primary sponsor for Earnhardt in 21 races this season.
Nationwide joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2014 as a corporate partner and became a majority sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet and Earnhardt in 2015.
“We are thrilled to continue our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and welcome Alex to the No. 88 Nationwide team,” said Terrance Williams, chief marketing officer at Nationwide, in a release from Hendrick Motorsports. “Rick Hendrick and the No. 88 team have been exceptional partners for the last three years, and we look forward to our joint commitment and engagement with the NASCAR community, both on and off the track.”
Hendrick Motorsports announced in January 2016 that Mountain Dew would serve as a primary sponsor of Earnhardt’s car for three races through 2018 while also serving as a primary sponsor for Chase Elliott’s car in two races annually and Kasey Kahne’s car for one race per year.
Alex Bowman, once told by a doctor that he couldn’t race for eight weeks after a severe crash but returned in half that time, saw his patience for sitting out this NASCAR season rewarded Thursday when Hendrick Motorsports announced that the 24-year-old will take over Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Cup ride next season.
“Ever since I was a kid, racing is all I’ve wanted to do,” Bowman said in a release from Hendrick Motorsports. “I’ve had so many people believe in me along the way. My family has sacrificed a lot and always been behind me. I would never have this chance without the support of Dale and everyone involved with the No. 88 team. To be part of Hendrick Motorsports and for Mr. (Rick) Hendrick to have this confidence in me, it’s just amazing.’’
Hendrick Motorsports also announced Thursday that Nationwide signed a one-year extension and will sponsor the car for 19 races. Axalta returns and will be the primary sponsor for 15 races, an increase of two from this season.
Bowman was among the favorites for Earnhardt’s ride because he drove 10 races in the No. 88 car last year while Earnhardt recovered from concussion symptoms. Bowman won a pole at Phoenix Raceway and had three top-10 finishes.
His performance last year earned praise from within Hendrick Motorsports.
“Alex impressed the heck out of us last year with his talent, poise and professionalism,” said car owner Rick Hendrick, in a statement from the team. “He stepped up in a very demanding situation and showed that he can run with the best and compete for wins. His ability to stay focused through it all, and the way he’s handled himself since then, has shown a lot of character. (Crew chief Greg Ives) and the team loved working with Alex, and that dynamic will get even better with more time together.
Earnhardt, who is in his final full-time season racing Cup, endorsed Bowman as the next driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet on Periscope in May.
“Alex Bowman in the 88 car next year, is that what you want?’’ Earnhardt said on Periscope a day after the All-Star Race. “That would be pretty awesome. Alex in the 88. That sounds good to me. He earned it last year. He ran real good.”
Bowman’s hire adds another young driver to the Cup series — which already features nearly one-fifth of the starting lineup age 25 or younger.
His path to this ride comes in an unusual way. Rarely do drivers sitting out for an extended period of time get quality rides, let alone join one of the sport’s top organizations.
Bowman, who signed with Hendrick Motorsports in Oct. 2016, has only raced in the Clash in February — earning that spot for his pole at Phoenix last year — and a Camping World Truck race in March at Atlanta Motor Speedway. His primary duty has been as driver in the Chevrolet simulator and driving Chevrolet’s car at NASCAR-allowed tests.
His work in the Chevy simulator has been praised by his future teammates.
“We put a lot on him now,” Jimmie Johnson said last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I think he’d be a great fit to come in that car from a wide variety of angles.”
Bowman made his debut in the No. 88 car last July at New Hampshire after having run 71 Cup races for BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing from 2014-15.
“When I look at how he stepped in seamlessly, it was really impressive for me,” Johnson said of Bowman’s performance in the No. 88 last year. “He handled the pressure, won a pole, was up there duking it out for race wins, had a heated moment or two with some of the veterans and wasn’t rattled.
“We all watched him evolve. You drive for a lower level team and unfortunately, people’s opinion about you can change. That cloud or stigma was there for a while, and he had a chance to reset the deck when he drove the 88. I think he’s plenty capable. He’s been a great teammate. He knows our system.”
While Bowman is most noted for running 10 races last year for Earnhardt, he has been tied to Earnhardt since 2014.
Bowman ran two Xfinity races for JR Motorsports in 2014 and returned to run nine races for the organization in 2016.
Bowman’s path to this point has been one full of gambles in a sport where few succeed. His father put a second mortgage on the home to fund Bowman’s racing and saw his used car dealership close during the economic downturn.
Bowman’s racing started when his father got him a quarter midget at age 7. Bowman went on to collect nine quarter-midget national championships before he moved to race midgets.
He was the USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year in 2009 but a crash the next year at the dirt track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway put his season in jeopardy. His midget tumbled several times. He cracked ribs, broke his collarbones and damaged blood vessels in his eyes. He was unable to see for three days because his eyes were swollen shut. When his vision returned, it was blurry. Eventually his vision returned.
Even with both arms in a sling, he wanted to race as soon as possible. Told it would be eight weeks at the earliest, Bowman said he had a race in three weeks. Bowman returned in four weeks.
He’s been focused on racing since — even with the decision to turn down rides this year to be aligned with Hendrick Motorsports even though there wasn’t a ride for him.
Beginning next year, he’ll be out of the simulator and back on the track.
“The No. 88 team is such a great group of people,’’ Bowman said in a release from the team. “I know we can pick up where we left off last year, and I truly believe we can win races and contend for a championship. I’m excited to build on the relationship with Nationwide and all of our partners. It means the world that they have faith in me, and I’m thankful to have them on my side. Now I just want to go win.”
Ready to go win some races. Thanks to everybody for all the support. Never thought this day would come. Driving the 88 in 2018! pic.twitter.com/NxDEm2v4CG