JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS AND RICK HENDRICK, OWNER HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, met with media and discussed sponsor contract extensions along with contracts with Johnson and Chad Knaus and Jeff Gordon, the success of the No. 48 team, and...
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS AND RICK HENDRICK, OWNER HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, met with media and discussed sponsor contract extensions along with contracts with Johnson and Chad Knaus and Jeff Gordon, the success of the No. 48 team, and more.
THE MODERATOR: We're back in session. We have our three-time series champion, Jimmie Johnson with us. He also brought his team owner, Rick Hendrick, along with him this morning. I understand you have an announcement that you would like to make. Some good news this morning. Mr. H?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, I'm real excited to announce today that we've signed an extension with Jimmie Johnson through the 2015 season. We just signed a new deal with Lowe's through 2013. We're excited about it. I know you guys are tired of talking to us. We saw you yesterday. Like we said yesterday, the key to success I think is keeping people together. This has been a fantastic ride with Jimmie. He and I have said we'd like to retire together. Lowe's has been an unbelievable sponsor. We're just real excited about keeping the whole deal intact. We just wanted to let you know today that's all done.
THE MODERATOR: Jimmie, I assume you are very happy about that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Definitely. So fortunate to have my team, job, situation at Hendrick Motorsports. Lowe's has been nothing but amazing to Hendrick Motorsports, to myself. So very, very excited about the future.
The only car I've driven in the Cup Series has been a Chevy. It's been a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and a Lowe's Chevrolet. I'm very, very proud of that stuff. Certainly look forward to the future, what the years may bring.
THE MODERATOR: A very important weekend for you and Hendrick Motorsports. If you could give us a quick comment on what Sunday will mean.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, excited to get on the track. Looking forward to understanding where our setup's at, what we have here. Trying a few things different than what we've had in the past. Hopefully that makes the difference and has the car capable to sit on the pole and run up front in the race. We'll know a lot more here in a couple hours. But eagerly awaiting on-track activity.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. H, any thoughts real quick?
RICK HENDRICK: We have never won here, so that's definitely a goal that we'd like to really cap off a great year by winning this race. That's something we'd really like to do. But it's going to be a great weekend. We're going to celebrate another championship. So we're just happy to be here and look forward to Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Rick, contract questions. You have traditionally signed Chad at the same time as Jimmie. I'm wondering if that's something that's being worked on. Also, I wanted to ask you about Jeff. I know he has a lifetime contract. What does that really mean? Where does Jeff stand?
RICK HENDRICK: Jeff and I have an agreement. As long as he drives in Cup, he's going to drive our car. I'm hoping he's going to drive a bunch of more years. We know it's going to be at least three or four. So we're excited about that.
You know, Jimmie and I try to look at a lifetime deal. I couldn't borrow enough money to make it work (smiling). But, you know, Chad has a multi-year deal. Chad and I have talked about retiring together. So we're in the process of getting that all papered.
But, you know, I think our goal and everybody's on the same page, keeping this thing together for the foreseeable future.
Q. Rick, did Lowe's make any new performance demands on you with the new deal? Do you feel like you're getting the money that Bruton didn't get?
RICK HENDRICK: I hope so (laughter).
Q. I assume they had to be jumping through hoops happy with what's happened.
RICK HENDRICK: They're really tickled to death. I can tell you from the very first year and the second year before Jimmie won a championship, we go to their national sales meeting, and their guys were just ripping and roaring. It's been a phenomenal partnership with Lowe's. They've built a lot of their marketing around Jimmie and Chad and the race team.
They've been some of the best partners we've ever had in the sport.
Very supportive in so many ways. They've put up a ton of money for our guys in the shop. I mean, gift cards, cash. They have just been phenomenal to deal with. Did I answer your question?
Q. Mr. H, when you're talking about doing these deals, it's like you walk down the hallway, you run into Jeff, you're there for life, how about you, Chad.
What is doing a deal with Jimmie like? You deal with his agent. How does it come down for you two. It sounds so casual when you mention the deals with your guys.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, anytime you're dealing with a guy that's accomplished what he has in the sport, it's a huge commitment on both parts because you're looking at five years - really six years, because we have next year and five beyond. Is that right? Jimmie and I were working on that this morning.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah.
RICK HENDRICK: We've committed we want to be together. At the same time he deserves it, he's got the best record. He's got to be financially - his deal has to be there, too. You know, I think we have the kind of relationship we can work on it. Of course, he's got his people looking at it, our people looking at it. Marshall had a lot to do with working with his attorneys and so forth, you know, trying to make it a good deal for everyone.
It's a huge, huge, huge deal for both of us. But we feel really good about it. Lowe's has always been really extremely good in their incentives. They like to win. Chad and Jimmie have delivered. I think everybody's happy in this deal.
Q. Jimmie, with this contract extension, does this mean your consecutive Cup streak goes through 2015 also?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: For myself, I would love to say that's the case (smiling).
Q. Rick, when you got started as a team owner in this sport, generally a top driver and team, their expectancy together was usually about three years. Is that because there's more money in the sport to keep the great talent there more so in the days when guys would kind of wear out their welcome, go to another team?
RICK HENDRICK: I think today, in the last probably 10 to 15 years, you've had more sponsors that are coming in that are using the driver as a spokesman in their marketing more so than you did way back when you had tobacco and beer and other sponsors.
I think when you get all that chemistry working well, you know, it's to everybody's advantage to keep it going. I don't think you see, again, if a sponsor's going to spend the kind of money that they've spent on Jimmie Johnson, surely they want to perform, but they think long and hard before they make a change.
So it's almost like a brand, building a brand, building a brand with a driver and a sponsor. I think that's why you see these things last. Both the driver, the sponsor and the owner want to get these deals negotiated early so they can get on with business. They're not simple, but they're important.
Q. Rick, the question that's been coming up a lot lately is, What can stop the 48 team? No one has an answer to that, except maybe if they were to stop themselves. Does a deal like this help put any of that to rest? Not that you have to worry about complacency with Chad and Jimmie, but is there anything you have to do to keep them motivated, focused going forward, having done so much already?
RICK HENDRICK: No, I think the real success to the 48 team is the drive and determination of both Jimmie and Jeff and the whole organization. Jimmie is just as hungry for the fourth as he was for the first. I think if you can be any more committed, he is. Chad is the same way. It's somewhat of a distraction when you're getting down to the end just because you know you got to do it, everybody wants to do it, get it behind them, I think you just don't have to worry about that. You don't have people saying, When is your deal up, maybe someone new coming in talking about it.
It's just a healthier deal for us to go on with it. But these guys are just as hungry. I think if we were in the last year of our negotiations, they'd still be racing the same way. It's just one of those things, because of lead time, long-term marketing, sometimes these companies are doing commercials a year in advance, just getting all that put to bed, then the long-term planning can go into effect.
But I never worry about having to motivate these guys. They're plenty motivated. I think you made a good point. We've said this a million times. Usually good organizations split up from the inside, they don't get broken down from the outside. We're doing everything we can to make our deal nice and tight so we can be competitive for years to come.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Good luck on Sunday.
-credit: gm racing