National Guard dumps Dale Earnhardt Jr.


Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Pay $26.5 million to plaster a brand name on a racecar. Let 75 million people watch it go around a track thousands of times per year.

This was the strategy deployed by the National Guard — and it earned them zero recruits.

Now, the Weekend Warriors are breaking up with their $32 million dollar man — NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. It’s also ending a $12 million sponsorship deal with driver Graham Rahal.

“Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business,” Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting director of the Army National Guard, said in a press release.

The “significantly constrained resources” may be due to Senate hearings on the Guard’s profligate spending convened earlier this year. USA Today reported the Guard spent $26.5 million to sponsor NASCAR in 2012, “but failed to sign up a single new soldier to its ranks,” according to Senate documents. Between 2011 and 2013, the Guard spent $88 million, but “it is unclear how many new recruits, if any, signed up because of it.”

“How can you justify the fact that nobody is getting recruited?” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in hearings. “The facts speak for themselves. The data is very clear. You’re not getting recruits off of NASCAR.”

Even worse, the other branches of the military seem to already know that NASCAR isn’t the most fertile recruiting ground.

“The Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Coast Guard all canceled their sponsorships with NASCAR due to cost, ineffectiveness and difficulty in measuring results,” according to a Senate document. “The Army specifically stated that NASCAR was declining against the Army’s core target audience and that NASCAR sponsorship had the highest cost per engagement in the Army’s portfolio of sponsorships — three times the next highest program.”

The announcement seems to have been a surprise to Earnhardt.

“We have not been approached by the Guard about potential changes and plan to honor our current agreement,” Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt’s team, told USA Today.

The Guard has not been shy about its recruitment efforts in the past. Last year, it teamed up with the producers of “Man of Steel” for a “Soldier of Steel” campaign.

“Everyday you walk past Clark Kent, then he changes into his uniform — similar to what we do here in the military,” specialist Jarrett Seigle, who works at the Fort Indiantown Gap Army post in Pennsylvania and appeared in a trailer for the film, told ABC27.

It’s unclear how many recruits Kal-El of Krypton brought in, but the New York Post reported the promotion cost the Guard $10 million.

“We share a common commitment to the American people to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Lyons said. “We will continue to assess and refine our programs to ensure we get the best return on investment.”

Justin Moyer is the deputy editor of the Morning Mix.
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