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7-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson to retire after 2020

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7-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson to retire after 2020

CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- Jimmie Johnson sat down next to Jeff Gordon at a 2001 driver meeting and asked the champion if he had time to offer any career advice.

Gordon was so impressed with the fellow California native that he encouraged Rick Hendrick to start a team built specifically for the 25-year-old Johnson.

It turned into one of the greatest hires in NASCAR history and nudged Gordon aside as the most dominant driver on the track. Now Johnson will follow Gordon and many other NASCAR superstars into retirement as the seven-time champion announced Wednesday he will retire from full-time competition after next season.

The 44-year-old Johnson joins an exodus of popular drivers that began when Gordon retired after the 2015 season. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick and Jamie McMurray are among those who followed Gordon out the door.

Johnson, the winningest driver of his era, said in a video posted to his social media and titled "(hash)Chasing8 one final time" that next season will be his final attempt to win a record eighth Cup title. It will be his 19th season in the No. 48 Chevrolet.

"I am so thankful for 18 incredible years of racing in NASCAR," Johnson said in the black-and-white video comprised of highlights from his career. "This sport has been good to me and allowed me to do something I truly love. I showed up chasing a dream and achieved more than I thought possible. I am looking forward to next season and celebrating what will be my last year as a full-time Cup driver. I know what this team is capable of and I hope 2020 is one of the best yet."

Johnson scheduled a Thursday news conference at Hendrick Motorsports to discuss his decision. He joins Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. as Hendrick drivers who have called it a career since 2015.

Reaction was immediate from drivers, as well as retired cyclist Lance Armstrong and seven-time Supercross champion Jeremy McGrath.

"Proud of you, bro," Armstrong wrote. "And even prouder to call you a friend. Let's go get (hash)8."

Gordon wrote that Johnson is "a class act & true champion on & off track" while current Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott was among the many young drivers to refer to Johnson as the greatest of all time with an emoji of a goat.

Johnson had two years remaining on his contract when new sponsor Ally signed on before this season to replace Lowe's, which had sponsored Johnson from his 2001 debut through 2018. Ally last month announced a three-year extension to sponsor the No. 48, but Johnson's future was not tied to the renewal through 2023.

"Jimmie Johnson is a legend in racing, the epitome of class and the ultimate representative of our brand," said Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and PR Officer at Ally. "We are proud that Jimmie will finish his remarkable NASCAR driving career with Ally as his primary sponsor."

Johnson has 83 career victories, tied with Cale Yarborough for sixth all-time. His seven titles are tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most in the Cup Series, the last one coming in 2016.

Johnson has been in a two-year slump and last won a race in 2017. He had two different crew chief changes this season and missed the playoffs for the first time since the format began in 2004. He finished 18th in the final standings and has just five top-five finishes the last two years.

Johnson has driven for Rick Hendrick his entire Cup career and set a NASCAR record in winning five consecutive titles from 2006 through 2010, an accomplishment that earned him Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year after his fifth crown.

All 83 of Johnson's wins have come in the No. 48 and include two Daytona 500s, four victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a record 11 wins at Dover International Speedway, nine at Martinsville Speedway and eight at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

12.9.19 Rick Horrow sits down with Julie Edelman, Global Client Partner of Google

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12.9.19 Rick Horrow sits down with Julie Edelman, Global Client Partner of Google

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick sits down with  Julie Edelman, Global Client Partner of Google.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE

1. It's hard to believe, but we have reached the end of yet another decade. And in the business of sport, it’s been a busy one. Here are Rick Horrow’s top 15 sport business/law trends and issues of the decade just ending. Stay tuned throughout December for his top 15 sports technology and media picks, as well as his most influential philanthropic/corporate social responsibility actions in sports, and an early look at the year and decade ahead.

2. State by state, legal sports wagering outside of Nevada sportsbooks takes hold, with massive business implications. On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting. Since the ruling, 19 states have legalized the practice, with Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee passing legislation this year. Additionally, 24 states have pending legislation. Legal sports wagering has already had a profound effect on virtually all American professional sports, casting a wider fan base net, spurring innovation in sports media and e-commerce, and birthing an entire cottage industry of related new companies. Sports teams are embracing fans who wager – Monumental Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Washington Wizards and Capitals, is only the latest ownership group to install a sportsbook in their venue. And tens of millions of tax dollars on net sports betting proceeds are adding income streams to state and community coffers. 

 

3. College football adds a real playoff. After years of avoiding adding yet another game to the college football season via the auspice of the Bowl Championship Series – a selection system that created five existing bowl matchups involving ten of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision’s top-ranked teams – the NCAA in the 2014-2015 season finally embraced the College Football Playoff (CFP), a bracket tournament between the top four teams in the country as determined by a selection committee, culminating in a championship game at a neutral site. While the payout for the semifinal teams is a modest $6 million, the playoff format delivers tens of millions in additional revenue to the schools, conferences, and contract and access bowl host cities – a handful of which, including New Orleans this year, get to double down on hosting duties and economic impact.

 

4. After 20 long years, Los Angeles gets an NFL team back in 2016. In fact, it gets two. Largely thanks to billionaire and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Los Angeles has now positioned itself to be the center of the sports universe for the next decade and likely longer. The two-decade span in which Los Angeles lacked an NFL team was brought on in part by the obsolescence of Los Angeles’s existing stadiums, the unwillingness of the NFL to add expansion teams after 2002 (when the Houston Texans premiered) or relocate any other teams, and an inability to agree on a plan to build a new stadium, despite several proposals that were vetted but never landed a team willing to relocate under the developers’ terms. Kroenke’s privately-funded SoFi Stadium opens next July with a Taylor Swift concert and will house both the Rams and the Chargers. Additionally, the $4.963 billion venue will host Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the CFP National Championship Game in 2023, and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. L.A. is now synonymous with mega sports events.

 

5. Rob Manfred became the 10th Major League Baseball Commissioner during a period of labor peace and unrest in almost everything else. At the beginning of the decade, baseball was still healing from its steroid era, a span in the 1990s-2000s where home runs were plenty and performance-enhancing drug testing scarce. Former Commissioner Bud Selig was largely credited with cleaning up the sport, and in 2015 Manfred inherited a league that was in decent baseball shape but desperately trying to stay relevant to the next generation of fans. Slow play was an issue…but a pitch clock somehow made games even slower. PED bats were gone, but the balls appeared to be corked. And Manfred’s decade ends with a nasty sign-stealing scandal involving the World Series champion Houston Astros. One bright spot in baseball continues to be its vast minor league system, which ensures pro baseball is played throughout America’s smaller communities – MiLB saw attendance in 2019 surpassed 44 million fans annually. As baseball’s Winter Meetings convene next week in San Diego, MiLB President Pat O’Connor and industry experts present a solution to improved facilities that rests in three key areas: time, money, and space.

Teenager Coco Gauff to return to the Citi Open in 2020

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Teenager Coco Gauff to return to the Citi Open in 2020

Teenage tennis sensation Coco Gauff will return to Washington D.C.'s Citi Open in 2020. 

Gauff, who will be 16 at the time of her second appearance in D.C., broke onto the WTA Tour with a historic run at last year's Wimbledon Championships. She upset seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams en route to a Round of 16 finish in her major main draw debut. 

Last year, Gauff made the trip to the nation's capital a month after her phenomenal run. However, due to her low ranking and her primary source of ranking points coming from Wimbledon, she had to play in the qualifying tournament just to make the main draw of the Citi Open. She would end up losing in the First Round of the singles draw but win her first WTA title with fellow American teenager Caty McNally in doubles

That will not be the case for the Florida native this upcoming year. Gauff won her first WTA singles crown at the Linz Open in Austria and became the youngest player ranked in the top 100 at 15 years of age. She wrapped up her 2019 campaign ranked No. 68 in the world. 

Coco Mania in D.C. helped contribute to one of the best Citi Opens ever. The tournament set several new attendance records in 2019 and sold out seven of the 11 sessions. An empty seat could not be found in any of Gauff's qualifying or main draw matches.

“Seeing the energy and excitement that Coco brought to our Citi Open fans and community last summer was one of the highlights of the tournament, so we are thrilled to welcome her back in 2020,” the manager of the Citi Open Mark Ein said in a release.

Gauff will be defending her doubles title, in addition to playing singles, and hopes to do so with McNally again. 

The 2020 Citi Open will be Aug. 1-9, where they will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the women's draw at the event. 

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