Rick Hendrick

Jimmie Johnson not ready to reveal future plans

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DOVER, Del. — Although Ally Financial is is committed to sponsoring the No. 48 car through the 2023 season, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson isn’t ready to give a hint on his future plans.

Johnson’s contract with Hendrick Motorsports expires after the 2020 season.

MORE: Rick Hendrick says that Jimmie Johnson “has something to prove”

Johnson’s status came up with Friday’s news that Ally has extended is primary sponsorship of his car.

“I haven’t made any decisions at this point,” said Johnson, who is on a career-long 88-race winless streak and not in playoff contention for the first time in his career. “I’m very, very excited that Ally has signed this extension with Hendrick. I think it speaks to the strength of our sport, strength and relationship with Hendrick Motorsports. I know everybody would like for me to be in the car in 2023 and even past that, but I just haven’t made that decision yet.

“I certainly didn’t want to stand in the way of this great news coming out. As this came down the pipeline, I knew I would be in a position to answer a lot of questions that would come with it, but I just felt it was such great news, I had to support Hendrick to get this news out right away and Ally as well, just great for our sport and industry. I don’t have anything to say at this time and I’m going to take every day that I can get from Mr. Hendrick to make this decision.”

Johnson, 44, said there will be many factors that will lead to his decision on if to continue in Cup after 2020.

“There’s a lot of things to look at with the Gen 7 car coming (in 2021), with the way our team is performing and what we’re building, I might want to go longer than 2023,” said Johnson, who seeks his 84th career Cup win this weekend at Dover International Speedway. “I just don’t know. 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. Based on past experience, I would say that probably spring next year is when I would really get pressure to make a decision if I was going to return in 2021.”

Ally Financial extends deal with Hendrick Motorsports through 2023

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Ally Financial has extended its contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2023 season to be the full-season primary sponsor of the No. 48 car, the team announced Friday.

Ally Financial is in the first year of a two-year deal to be the primary sponsor of the No. 48 car for all 38 Cup races each season.

Ally Financial, a digital financial services company, replaced Lowe’s, which had been the longtime primary sponsor of Jimmie Johnson’s car until this season.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is signed though the 2020 season. The team stated that Johnson will announce his future plans at a later date. 

“Our first year with Jimmie and the team at Hendrick Motorsports has been phenomenal,” said Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer, in a statement. “Jimmie’s the ultimate competitor, and Ally is proud to support him and the rest of the No. 48 team. We are thrilled to extend our contract and build on the incredible momentum we’ve established. This sponsorship goes way beyond just putting our logo on the car. It’s built on our shared values for doing right in the communities we race in, while growing our brand with passionate, new audiences. We look forward to many more exciting laps together.”

Said car owner Rick Hendrick in a statement: “Ally’s values are our values. Working with integrity, being accountable to one another, and leading in both the workplace and in our communities are all core beliefs that we share. This is a tremendous relationship on many levels, and to see it have success and grow so quickly is truly meaningful. Jimmie sets the standard and is a wonderful representative for Ally. Today is a great day for all of us.”

Said Johnson in a statement: “The energy Ally has brought to the No. 48 team, Hendrick Motorsports and the sport of NASCAR is contagious. They have embraced our fans, activated their program in unique ways and supported me at every turn, from racing my No. 48 car every week to running the Boston Marathon. It’s a true bond – not just a business transaction. We care about each other’s success. I’m proud to be associated with Ally and can’t wait to see what they do in the future.”

Rick Hendrick: ‘Jimmie Johnson has something to prove’

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Even though Jimmie Johnson is in the midst of the longest winless streak of his NASCAR career – 88 races – team owner Rick Hendrick is convinced the seven-time Cup champion will return to victory lane soon, potentially as early as this weekend’s race at Dover.

There’s reason for Hendrick’s optimism: Johnson’s 83rd and most recent Cup win came at Dover. He also owns the one-mile all-concrete banked track’s record with 11 career Cup wins there.

This is the first time Johnson has not been part of the Cup playoffs since he became a full-time Cup driver. Not only has it been difficult on Johnson, it also has been rough on Hendrick to watch his driver go through such a prolonged dry spell.

“It’s been really hard,” Hendrick said Wednesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track” show with Danielle Trotta and Larry McReynolds. “Here’s a guy that’s won seven championships, won five in a row, is one of the best drivers ever in the sport and to see him struggle, it just kills you. You want to do everything you can to try and fix it. To miss the playoffs was a huge deal, you just hate to see it happen when you’ve got a streak like that going.

But on the flip side, he is more hungry today and more committed and the team is really jelling quickly. Cliff ( Daniels) has just done a fantastic job. You can listen to the two of them, watch the spring in their step, and it looks like the early days of Chad (Johnson’s former crew chief, Chad Knaus) and Jimmie. So I’m really, really pumped up about that.”

How quickly could Johnson get back to victory lane?

I see Jimmie Johnson winning a race here, maybe multiple races, and I think it could happen Sunday (at Dover, 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN),” Hendrick said. “So I’m going to be as excited to go to victory lane as much as I was when he won the championships. We’re just refusing to give up, he’s doing everything he can and I’m super impressed with Cliff. I’ve never seen a young guy mature as fast and be so quick to make decisions and just show skills that I’ve seen veterans go years without having.

So, we’ll see. I think Jimmie has something to prove and it’ll be fun to watch in Dover.”

Hendrick understands the frustration Johnson has been going through, particularly this season, his first year of not making the playoffs and his first season without Knaus as his crew chief.

You know that any athlete or anybody that’s had the success that he’s had, it weighs on you when you don’t perform,” Hendrick said. “But I think the pressure to make the playoffs was just a ton, almost as much as when you’re coming down to the end to win a championship. But once that was over and we moved on, he became more determined to tell me he couldn’t wait to get to the Roval (last weekend) and Dover, he just can’t wait.

It just built more fire in him and again and they’re clicking. It’s a tough situation to watch someone that good, someone with that much talent, not to be able to hit the stride you know he can do. We just all never gave up. We know we can do this, we know how good he is. It’s just a real spark right now because I see him having fun and feeling comfortable and confident, and that’s what it takes.”

Hendrick also raved about Chase Elliott’s win Sunday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval, rallying back from 37th place after wrecking while leading with 44 laps remaining.

That was the most unbelievable comeback I think I’ve ever seen,” Hendrick told Trotta and McReynolds. “When he went off-course in Turn 1 and locked the brakes up, I thought ‘Well, that’s it, he may be able to get back to 10th, but that’ll be about it.’

But when all the cautions fell and he was back on track, he was doing some amazing things with the car. It was one of the most exciting races that I can ever remember. … It was a spectacular performance and a lot of excitement for the fans.”

When asked if he thought Elliott would be able to rally to finish 1-2 with teammate Alex Bowman, Hendrick replied, “Never, never, not the way he started that race. I thought the car was damaged, but boy, the way he came on in the second half of that race, especially in the closing laps, he did an unbelievable job.

If you had asked me to bet, I would have lost a lot of money that either of those guys would be in the top 10, let alone 1-2.”

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Alex Bowman defends actions against Bubba Wallace

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CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman declined to repeat what Bubba Wallace said to him just before Wallace splashed him with liquid from his drink bottle but Bowman added it was “nothing classy by any means.”

Such was how Bowman “celebrated” a runner-up finish that secured the final transfer spot to the second round of the playoffs.

A day that began with Bowman recovering from an illness and starting in the rear because he was in a backup car also included an incident in the first lap, wrecking Wallace and rallying to keep his title hopes alive.

But it was the incidents with Wallace during and after the race that marked a second consecutive weekend he’s had issues with the Richard Petty Motorsports driver.

Bowman took the blame for the Lap 1 incident on the backstretch chicane when he lost control and hit Wallace’s car, forcing Wallace to also miss the chicane.

“That was just a mistake,” Bowman said after exiting the infield care center for treatment of overheating. “I got flipped off for every single straightaway on the entire race track for three laps. I got flipped off by him for like three or four laps in a row at Richmond, so I’m just over it.”

Bowman retaliated later in Sunday’s race, wrecking Wallace to bring out the caution on Lap 43.

“I’ve got to stand up for myself at some point,” Bowman said. “Probably wouldn’t have gotten wrecked if he had his finger back in the car.

“I’d be mad too, but he put himself in that spot.”

Bowman said his issue was how Wallace repeatedly flipped him off — something Daniel Suarez said angered him when Wallace did the same thing at Pocono in July and led to a pit road disagreement.

“Just don’t flip me off,” Bowman said. “If you do it once, I get it, I ran into you on the first lap, that’s on me, I messed up. Don’t do it three laps in a row every single straightaway.”

Bowman said he later raced with Wallace without incident in the 109-lap race.

But that was just only part of the issues Bowman had this weekend.

Bowman wrecked in the final seconds of final Cup practice Saturday, forcing his Hendrick Motorsports team to go to a backup car and give up its second starting spot. Bowman had to start toward the rear of the 40-car field because he was in the backup car.

Then came the issue on the first lap that required him to pit for new tires. He had to come back down pit road for a pass through penalty since he never stopped in the designated spot after missing the backstretch chicane.

He was last at that point. With temperatures in the 90s Sunday and temperatures inside the car much hotter, Bowman became exhausted.

“Probably Lap 10 of the race I was pretty done and out of it from a physical standpoint,” Bowman said. “Just tried to keep digging.”

Bowman was 12 points out of the final transfer spot when the caution waved on Lap 90 for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s spin. Bowman was running 13th at the time. He pitted and was soon in the top 10 and steadily moved to the front in the final laps.

But Bowman’s struggles were not over. A red flag on Lap 102 left drivers baking in their cars for 8 minutes and 22 seconds.

“I saw them coming with water to all the guys behind me and I was out of water in the car and they didn’t get to me,” Bowman said. “They got to about four cars behind me and they started rolling and I was like ‘Dang it man, I could have used that water.’”

Bowman got through that and climbed to second to finish behind teammate Chase Elliott to give Hendrick Motorsports its second 1-2 finish of the year. The two combined for the other at Talladega Superspeedway, where Elliott won and Bowman was second.

Bowman’s run combined with a failed strategy for Aric Almirola allowed Bowman to beat Almirola by five points for the final transfer spot to the second round.

“You know, nobody tries any harder than Alex does,” car owner Rick Hendrick said. “He just didn’t give up.  I mean, and he was quick, but he ‑‑ I mean, he just refused to lose today.  I thought, ‘Man, if he gets up there to Chase, we might have a problem.’ But no, Alex is committed. He’s a 100% in.  Greg (Ives, crew chief), that’s such a good team. I’m excited to see where they’re going to go here in the next round. But he did ‑‑ when you think about where (Bowman) came from and finished second, that was unbelievable. Proud of him.”

Alex Bowman ‘not immediately worried’ about Austin Dillon after Richmond run-in

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CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman didn’t back down from the “silver spoon” comment he made about Austin Dillon over the radio after Dillon intentionally spun him in Stage 2 last weekend at Richmond Raceway .

Dillon spun Bowman in retaliation for contact between them earlier in the race. Bowman was racing beneath Dillon entering Turn 1 when he washed up the track and into Dillon, who then made contact with William Byron.

Dillon turned Bowman after being encouraged by his owner and grandfather Richard Childress and crew chief Danny Stockman to retaliate.

After his incident with Dillon, Bowman told his team on the radio “I want to shove that silver spoon he’s been fed on his whole life up his ass.”

Bowman didn’t apologize Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“What the comment was, you heard it,” Bowman said. “I said what I said. Obviously frustrated with that situation.

“I think it hurt his day more than it hurt mine. We ran where we were kind of going to run anyway. It’s just frustrating. Got ran all they way to the inside wall down the front straightaway and then just turned. It is what it is.”

But heading into this weekend’s playoff elimination race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Bowman, a playoff driver who is two points out of the cutoff spot, has concerns other than Dillon.

“Not immediately worried about it,” Bowman said. “Typically don’t see him at these places anyway.”

After being told of the comment, Dillon said: “Well, if he’s that good, he’ll catch me at some point.”

As for Dillon being directed to turn him by his grandfather, Bowman said “That’s just part of it.

“Part of how they operate. (Childress is) obviously a very involved team owner and is on the radio a lot more than our owner (Rick Hendrick). That’s just part of it. It doesn’t matter. He’s not holding the steering wheel. I’m not worried about who gave directions to anybody or anything like that. I’m here to advance to the next round this week and handle it in the future.”

Dillon said he’s moved on.

“I feel like I handled the business during the race and that’s all it was. Passed that. We raced each other the whole rest of the race. There was no bumping, no nothing.

“I think we’re pretty much square.”

Alex Bowman qualified second for Sunday’s race while Dillon qualified 30th.