AUTO RACING

Budweiser Won't Make the Jump With Earnhardt

Saturday, July 14, 2007

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaves his late father's team to drive for Hendrick Motorsports next season, longtime corporate sponsor Budweiser won't be going with him.

The Hendrick team announced yesterday that Budweiser would not continue as the sponsor of Earnhardt's car next season because of Hendrick's "long-term contractual commitments to existing sponsors."

"We have agreements in place with sponsors for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, which prevent us from having a relationship with Budweiser," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. "Honoring our commitments is important to us. The trade-off is missing an opportunity to bring Budweiser, a marquee brand synonymous with NASCAR and its fans, into the fold."

Earnhardt announced in June that he would leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. to join the Hendrick team next season, but Hendrick has not yet made it clear what number car Earnhardt will drive or whom his sponsor will be.

The team has not determined a timetable for its sponsorship announcements.

"They had a full plate," said Earnhardt, who said he would prefer to keep driving the No. 8 car for his new team. "They had sponsors pretty much already signed in agreements through '08. It wasn't really an option for Rick to make room."

Kyle Busch, who is leaving the Hendrick team at the end of the season to make room for Earnhardt, currently drives a No. 5 car with sponsorship from Kellogg's and several other companies.

Earnhardt said it would be "cool" if Budweiser decided to stick with DEI, but believes there might be substance to rumors that the company is looking at sponsoring Evernham Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne. . . .

Casey Mears turned a lap of 182.556 mph in his Chevrolet, taking the pole position for tomorrow's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway.

-- From News Services


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