DOVER, Del. — With Ally Financial announcing it will extend its sponsorship of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team through 2023, there is still one lingering question.
Will Jimmie Johnson remain as the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, or will he retire at the end of his contract with Hendrick Motorsports, which expires in 2020?
Johnson didn’t have an answer for that question Friday prior to practice at Dover Int’l Speedway.
“I haven’t made any decisions at this point,” Johnson said. “I’m very, very excited that Ally has signed this extension with Hendrick. I think it speaks to the strength of our sport and strength of the relationship with Hendrick Motorsports. I know everybody would like me to be in the car to 2023 and even past that, but I just haven’t made that decision yet. So, I certainly didn’t want to get in the way of this great news coming out, either. And, 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 like it was such great news, I supported Hendrick in getting this news out right away, and Ally as well, it’s just great for our sport and industry,” he added. “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 before I have to make my decision.”
Johnson is in the midst of a career-long winless streak. He hasn’t won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race since June 4, 2017 at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway and failed to make the NASCAR playoffs for the first time in his career this year.
Despite his struggles, Johnson says he doesn’t yet have a timeline for when he’d like to hang up his helmet and hand over the wheel of the No. 48 to someone else.
“I don’t have a timeline,” Johnson said. “I personally know that I would like every day that I can before I need to make that decision. There’s a lot of things to look at with the Gen-7 car coming and the way our team is performing and what we are building. And I might want to go longer than 2023. 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,” the seven-time series champion noted. “So, 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. I hate I don’t have any good news for you. I know you’d love to have that firm timeline, but I just don’t right now.”