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ANDERS: Lowe's departure closes another chapter

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Jordan Anders

NASCAR Daytona 500 Auto Racing-4
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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I’m young enough that I can’t remember a NASCAR without Lowe’s.

I have only the foggiest memories of the home improvement company sponsoring Brett Bodine’s car in the mid-1990s, but I remember it sponsoring Mike Skinner’s No. 31 car at Richard Childress Racing just fine. That sponsorship ran from 1997-2001, then in 2002, the company jumped to Hendrick Motorsports to sponsor some guy named Jimmie Johnson.

That deal has persevered from Johnson’s rookie season to now, but the announcement came earlier this week that Lowe’s is following in the footsteps of numerous Fortune 500 companies and exiting the world of NASCAR sponsorship after this season.

Last year, Target announced it was ending its decades-long involvement in the sport. Now, Lowe’s is joining its home improvement rival Home Depot on the way out the door as companies have deemed their investments in NASCAR no longer viable.

It’s a further shift in the way NASCAR sponsorships work. Lowe’s was one of three companies — FedEx with Denny Hamlin and Kroger with A.J. Allmendinger being the others — that sponsored a car for the entire schedule or all but a handful of races. The days of Richard Petty and STP, and Dale Earnhardt and GM Goodwrench, are long gone as teams are forced to piece together sponsorship through deals with companies for fewer races.

Johnson has been so dominant for most of his career that it can be easy to overlook the fact he may very well be the last guy in NASCAR as it’s currently constructed to be one of those guys who is synonymous with one sponsor for the majority of his career. Look at all the top established guys in the sport — Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., those sorts of names — and almost all of them have seen their success spread across different sponsors, different car owners and different numbers.

For Johnson, it’s only ever been Lowe’s, and the idea that he’ll drive however many more years he decides to go just feels weird.

It also is a sad indictment of the state of the sport that such a longstanding partner is abandoning it altogether, but that can be debated on another day.

Right now, I’m just going to think about how sweet the paint scheme was on the No. 31 car Mike Skinner drove for Richard Childress Racing in the late 1990s. That thing was sweet.

PREDICTION

Kevin Harvick goes for four in a row today at Fontana. I picked him as low-hanging fruit a week ago, so I’ll change it up this week and go with a former Fontana winner who has a thing for these sorts of race tracks. PICK: Kyle Larson.

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