CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmie Johnson is not in the running for a title in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But this weekend will still be a celebration.
The No. 48 team will celebrate its longstanding relationship with Lowe’s, and do so with a throwback paint scheme that harkens back to Johnson’s rookie season.
Sunday will be the final ride with Lowe’s as the primary sponsor of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
“Now that the weekend’s here, I think the magnitude of it all is definitely going to set in,” Johnson said. “Seeing that paint scheme is going to trigger emotions from myself and I’m sure our fans. So many good years with that paint scheme and victories and such.”
That 2002 rookie season began with a pole in the Daytona 500 and featured three wins, including a sweep at Dover International Speedway.
But the Lowe’s partnership began even before that with three races at the end of the 2001 campaign. Johnson first-ever NASCAR Cup Series start came on Oct. 7, 2001, in the No. 48 Lowe’s Power of Pride Chevrolet. Fittingly enough, it came at Charlotte Motor Speedway – then called Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
“It’s just been such a great run. They’ve been such a great company to work for."Jimmie Johnson
Johnson drove a throwback paint scheme paying homage to that original “Power of Pride” ride just last weekend at ISM Raceway.
“With these paint schemes, I’ve done certainly a lot of thinking and reflecting,” the driver said. “It’s just been such a great run. They’ve been such a great company to work for. I’m definitely getting a little sentimental about it all now.”
Together with Lowe’s, Johnson earned 83 wins – the second-most ever by a driver and a single sponsor behind only Jeff Gordon and Axalta.
Johnson, No. 48 team crew chief Chad Knaus and Lowe’s captured a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup Series championships as a team along the way.
“It’s incredible to have one sponsor, one team, one driver, seven championships,” Johnson said after winning his seventh title. “I take so much pride in that. I’m so thankful for the opportunity that Lowe’s gave me.”
And just as important as the on-track success, both Johnson and Knaus pointed to all of Lowe’s support and initiatives off the track as a crucial aspect of the partnership.
“Amazing relationships,” Knaus said. “Everybody that wears a red vest, they’ve all been so supportive of what we’ve done with the 48. We’ve been ingrained into that program for so long. They’ve contributed to the success of Hendrick Motorsports greatly.”
The driver and crew chief will pay tribute to that partnership, and everything that has come with it, this weekend. Along with the throwback scheme, Johnson will also don a throwback firesuit and helmet modeled after his rookie threads.
In addition to Lowe’s last ride, it is also the final race for Johnson and Knaus as a driver-crew chief duo on the No. 48 team.
Even without a championship opportunity, both men know the trip to Homestead will provide yet another memorable moment for them at the track as they close this chapter of the No. 48 team’s history.
“What is going to be really cool about it is I just recently had a son, he’s about 2-and-a-half months old,” Knaus said. “He’s going to fly down to Homestead with us and he’s going to be there and he’s going to get a photo with myself and Jimmie by the race car, and my wife and (Johnson’s wife) Chani and the girls are going to be there. So, it’s going to be a really neat opportunity.”
Through it all, the driver and crew chief’s goal – as always – remains the same. Their sights are set on Victory Lane.
“Man, I want to win this year,” Johnson said. “I want to win with Lowe’s on the car and I want to win with Chad. So, that’s our top priority.”