Ally Financial will partner with Hendrick Motorsports to back the seven-time NASCAR champion in 2019-2020.
Lowe’s, Johnson’s primary sponsor since his 2001 debut, has been represented in some part on the No. 48 Chevrolet in all 83 of his Cup Series victories. But the company is leaving NASCAR at the end of the season, sending Hendrick on a months-long search for a replacement to sponsor one of the most iconic properties in motorsports.
The two-year deal with Ally is for all 38 races each season, beginning with next year’s Daytona 500.
Ally announced the partnership with Johnson before Sunday’s race at Martinsville and began immediate activation of its marketing investment. Both Ally CEO Jeffrey Brown and chief marketing officer Andrea Brimmer appeared with Johnson and team owner Rick Hendrick prior to the green flag.
Johnson has only been for sale once in his Cup career, when he was a nobody who happened to catch the attention of Jeff Gordon. It was Gordon who convinced Hendrick to hire Johnson, and Gordon and Hendrick had to promise Lowe’s the new driver was the real deal to get Lowe’s to back the new team.
Johnson exploded onto the Cup scene and Lowe’s remained with the No. 48 team in what became one of the greatest dynasties in NASCAR history. Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus, Hendrick and Lowe’s won a record-tying seven Cup titles, including five in a row from 2006-2010.
Johnson in 2009 became the first race car driver to be named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. His brand has a unique value and Hendrick protected it by landing a full-time sponsor in Ally rather than a deal that consisted of multiple sponsors over the season.
Johnson has two years remaining on his contract — the same length of time Ally has initially committed to with Hendrick — and possibly just two more chances to pass Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. with an eighth championship.
Hendrick also made personnel changes for 2019. Knaus will move to William Byron’s car and Johnson will be partnered with Kevin Meendering. It will be an entirely different look for Johnson, who has had almost zero change in his 18-year Cup career.