Johnson says there was no particular reason why the contract extension ended up being three years.
“In previous extension I’ve had, I don’t know, five years and two years and I guess just the general conversation this one has been three years," Johnson said. "I’ve said it before and continued to say that when the fire does go out, I will step down. I don’t have any framework now on a timeline. I just know that I’ve got three more years of trying to go out there and win championships and win races."
Johnson has earned all seven titles and 83 wins with Chad Knaus.
With Knaus' contract set to expire after the 2018 season, Johnson is hopeful that he'll stick it out until they can retire together.
“I think I’ve got another year to try to convince him," he said. "He at least has another year and I’ve started this with him and I’ve said it before, I want to finish it with him. So, I’ll keep leaning on him. Those crew chief years, I like to call them dog years, I don’t have a clear picture on where that will take him, but I will do my best to keep him around as long as I can.”
Winning with Lowe's
Johnson isn't worried that Lowe's has only committed to two years less than what he signed with Hendrick.
"We have come through so much together," Johnson said. "Clearly, I’m not the one negotiating those contracts, it’s not really in my department. But, we do have them for 2018.
"I guess it would be 17 seasons together," he added. "I certainly would hope and think that it would go on further, but very excited to have a one-year contract with them now. Thirty-eight races at a full-time primary sponsorship is nothing to sneeze at.”
Johnson has raced with the same primary sponsor his entire Cup career.
“It’s amazing," said Johnson. "The long-term relationship with Lowe’s and have them back on for another full season is incredible and a huge statement. Chad Knaus (crew chief), Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie Johnson, to have this long of a run together and to know that we are going to stay together is super special for sure.”
photo by Robt.LeSieur
On Rick Hendrick
Rick Hendrick has a knack for keeping strong, long-lasting relationships with his sponsors.
Johnson says Hendrick's ability as a business man goes far beyond slapping sponsorship stickers on the race car.
“The culture and winning success at Hendrick Motorsports is probably the cornerstone of that, but Rick (Hendrick) is a businessman and through his connections throughout the automotive business and through life, I think he can offer more than just a marketing relationship with a sponsor," Johnson said. "There is a lot of business-to-business work that takes place. The technology world continues to grow and there are partnerships that grow there and benefit more than your traditional marketing program. I put a fair amount of weight in that and just his abilities as a businessman to see outside of just a marketing program.”
As a record eighth championship hangs in the balance, Johnson says he has never been driven by racking up the stats.
“I’ve never honestly been driven by stats and I’ve said it so many times, but it’s hard to ignore where I sit on the wins list and not let my competitive spirit kick in and want more," Johnson said. "Certainly, would love to climb further up the ladder there. Eight championships, I would love to stand alone at that, but that is all predictable and easy stuff. For me, it’s really about racing. I just love to race."
MCTTNS via Getty Images
Future of Hendrick Motorsports
With Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s retirement at the end of the year, there's an unknown of what direction Hendrick will take for the future.
But Johnson has full confidence that his team owner will make the right decisions for his team and the organization.
“The sport is always changing and evolving and how we win and how we stay on top has changed so much since I started in 2002," Johnson said. "I have full confidence and trust in him and where he takes the team. Sitting in closed door meetings I know that there is a lot of options being explored and I know in Rick’s heart that it’s all to put the best four cars on the racetrack for Hendrick Motorsports and win races and championships. It’s hard to tell where it’s going to go, but my faith is in Rick.”
Racing in his 40's
Johnson will be 45 years old when his new contract expires. He says racing well into his 40's isn't something that many drivers behind him will probably do in the future.
“I think that the lifespan is getting shorter," Johnson said. "Racing into your 50’s or late 40’s, I don’t think generationally it’s going to continue to go that way."
But Johnson did think of one driver he could see finding a hard time to hang up the helmet someday.
"But then there are guys, when you look at Kyle Larson’s love of racing anything and everything you could work up a discussion that he will race until he is Red Farmer’s age. Or you could maybe say, he is probably going to hit burnout at some point in time and maybe stop sooner.
"I don’t know, but as long as people are having fun and you can balance your personal life and your professional life, I think that gives you a long runway," he added. "It’s just not easy to do."