Saturday, December 3, 2016
NASCAR luminaries gather to honor Johnson, Stewart at awards gala
Dec. 3, 2016
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
LAS VEGAS – Jimmie Johnson was unfailingly humble, even on a night when the NASCAR community came together to honor his monumental accomplishment.
With a victory on Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Johnson claimed his record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Nevertheless, the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was reluctant to claim the same stature as the two seven-time champions who preceded him – Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
“Dale said this in '94 after winning his seventh,” Johnson said in concluding his remarks during the Sprint Cup Awards on Friday night at the Wynn Las Vegas. “I might've won as many championships as Richard Petty, but he will always be the King."
“I completely agree and must say, I might've won as many championships as Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt but... I will never be the King or the Intimidator. I’m just a guy from California who always wanted to race.”
But Johnson will continue to shape his own legacy, having brought a 12th series title to team owner Rick Hendrick, who also fielded championship cars for Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte.
As he addressed the packed house in the Latour ballroom, Johnson said the magnitude of the seventh title was still sinking in.
“Loyalty and a never-quit attitude are at the foundation of our success,” Johnson said. “Add that with Mr. Hendrick's leadership and the unwavering support from (sponsor) Lowe's, and put it all in a Chevy... good stuff happens.
“We've been through a lot over the years. Ups and downs, winning and losing, heartache and heartbreak. Even a golf cart incident (a reference to Johnson’s fall from the roof of a golf cart after his first championship in 2006).
“Amongst it all, we are still together and more unified than ever.”
Hendrick also was an integral part of an unexpected honor for three-time champion Tony Stewart, who is retiring from NASCAR Sprint Cup competition after 18 years. Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, who befriended Stewart earlier this year, introduced the driver, and Hendrick added a surprise.
Hendrick announced a $1.8-million donation from the motorsports industry in Stewart’s name to Vedder’s effort to combat EB, a pernicious skin disease.
Stewart said he got involved with Vedder’s charity, “when I met him earlier this year is South Carolina. It’s a very important charity to him and his wife. When you meet people like him that are that passionate about something, it immediately makes you want to be that passionate as well. That’s why we got involved.”
“Tony’s legacy on the track is known and respected, but his efforts off the track should be known as well, even though he’ll never be the one talking about them,” said NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton.
“Tony Stewart is a true humanitarian, and this sport is better off, thanks to him and all of his contributions. It’s only appropriate that we, as an industry, can contribute to Tony’s philanthropic endeavors.”
For his part, Hendrick also had strong words for his seven-time champion driver and his crew chief, Chad Knaus.
“Jimmie, you are a champion in every sense of the word,” Hendrick said. “Chad, you are what your record says you are, the best crew chief of all time.”
Even Johnson’s fiercest competitors expressed deep admiration for his accomplishments.
“If I had to finish second to someone, I guess the third seven-time champion in our sport’s history is acceptable,” said Joey Logano, who finished second to Johnson in the final standings. “Congrats to Jimmie, and thank you for always being a great representative for the sport.
“Great to finally see you guys make it up here on the big stage,” quipped 2015 champion Kyle Busch. “But seriously, when you tie a record set by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, the accomplishment pretty much speaks for itself.”
Despite missing half the NASCAR Sprint Cup season because of a concussion, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was named the series’ most popular driver for the 14th straight year.
The fan support, Earnhardt said, “really motivated me to get healthy. It motivated me to come back.”
Earnhardt will test in December and expects to be back in the No. 88 Chevrolet for the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.
Notes: Team owner Roger Penske, who celebrated his 50th year in motorsports this season, received the Bill France Award of Excellence from NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France… Comedian Jay Mohr, a personal friend of Johnson’s, hosted the banquet for the sixth time… Sting headlined the musical portion of the show, performing a track from his new CD “57th and 9th,” as well as the classic “Message in a Bottle.”
Thursday, December 1, 2016
NASCAR, Monster Energy announce premier series entitlement partnership
December 1, 2016
NASCAR Wire Service
LAS VEGAS – NASCAR announced on Thursday at Wynn Las Vegas a multi-year deal that will make Monster Energy only the third entitlement sponsor in premier series history.
The length and terms of the deal were not disclosed, but both parties hailed the partnership as the perfect fit for both brands.
“Monster Energy is a brand built on excitement and enthusiasm, qualities that align with NASCAR,” said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. “This sponsorship position is the most unique in all of sports and entertainment, and we are thrilled to have a partner that will help us further elevate the series. Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thorough search, one that resulted in the right partner at this important time in our sport’s history.”
Monster Energy has existing sponsorships with a number of motorsports sanctioning bodies, athletes and teams, but the NASCAR deal signals the biggest sponsorship step in the company’s history.
“Monster has built its brand on racing and motorsports, and NASCAR is the pinnacle of motorsports in America,” said Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing at Monster Beverage Company. “It's American racing, we’re an American brand that's a global company, and NASCAR is too. When the opportunity came along to further associate yourself with a sport like NASCAR, it was the perfect fit for us. … NASCAR is just a hard-hitting, close racing, fun property to be associated with.”
Along with naming rights to NASCAR’s top series, Monster Energy will also hold race sponsorship to the NASCAR All-Star Race and become the Official Energy Drink of NASCAR. Monster Energy also said it will continue to sponsor Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 car.
Thursday’s announcement is the culmination of a lengthy and thorough search by NASCAR to find the successor to Sprint, whose entitlement sponsorship will end on December 31, 2016.
Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, said that the sanctioning body spoke with numerous companies throughout the process, ultimately choosing Monster Energy for a number of reasons, not the least of which was its lifestyle culture.
“We have the good fortune of finding a brand that we believe works for our sport,” Phelps said. “They're going to bring their lifestyle to their activation. … They're going to bring their brand, their excitement, their energy to this partnership and the fans are going to be the winners. It's all about engaging the fans and having the fans have unique, fun experiences whether at the racetrack or through different mediums, through social, digital, content.”
Phelps said a number of ancillary details will be announced in the coming weeks. Among those still under discussion is the name of the series, the series mark and the championship trophy.
Under the agreement, energy drink sponsors already involved in NASCAR may remain in place. Potential sponsors from the energy drink category will not be eligible for future sponsorship if not already involved in the sport.