Aug 8, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s emergence as a threat for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship was not enough to prevent the National Guard from announcing that it would drop its sponsorships of both him and IndyCar driver Graham Rahal at the end of the year.
Today at Watkins Glen, Earnhardt said that he didn’t really have any details on the matter: “That’s between the Guard and (Hendrick Motorsports) to sort all that out,” he said.
“Really enjoyed working with them over the last seven years and hope to be able to continue to represent them. It’s a huge honor.’’
In a statement released Wednesday night, HMS said that it had a contract in place with the Guard through 2015 while adding that it hadn’t been approached by the Guard about future changes to that pact.
HMS and Earnhardt have enjoyed the backing of the Guard since the 2008 season, when Earnhardt moved to the team from Dale Earnhardt Inc.
With the Guard’s departure, HMS now has to sell the 20 races that it covered on Earnhardt’s No. 88 car; right now, Nationwide Insurance (12 races), PepsiCo (five races), and Kelley Blue Book (one race) are set to be featured on the car in 2015.
The Guard’s acting director, Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons said in a Wednesday statement that “significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future” helped lead to the decision to abandon its motorsports sponsorships.
This year, the Guard is spending more than $40 million on the combined programs for Earnhardt and Rahal (Earnhardt’s drew $32 million, while Rahal’s drew $12 million).
In additional comments, Earnhardt acknowledged the ongoing debate over military sponsorship in sports but insisted that the Guard’s program has been “very, very effective” in regards to recruiting and brand awareness.
The Guard’s decision to leave motorsports has drawn mixed reactions from fans and also from politicians on Capitol Hill.
In a statement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) – who questioned the value of the Guard’s sports marketing efforts in a Senate subcommittee meeting in May – said that while she loved NASCAR and the Guard, “spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on a recruitment program that signed up zero recruits, and that has been abandoned by other service branches as ineffective, just makes no sense.”
On the other side, Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.) relayed her disappointment and defended the Guard’s NASCAR program.
“…With a strong fan base of 77 million men and women, this partnership with NASCAR has resulted in significant exposure for the Army National Guard that has strengthened recruitment and retention,” she said in a statement.
Jul 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Both Ferraris will start behind Williams for the first time in 2015 on Sunday.
Jul 4, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
The Red Bull driver will start tomorrow’s British Grand Prix from tenth place on the grid.
Jul 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
A lively GP2 race sees Sirotkin claim his first win in the series ahead of Rossi and championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne.
Jul 4, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Dutchman admits to NBCSN that he thought he would easily make it through to Q3 in British GP qualifying.
Jul 4, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Massa will start tomorrow’s British Grand Prix from third place on the grid ahead of Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Jul 4, 2015, 9:47 AM EDT
Hamilton thanks fans for support as over 100,000 come out for qualifying on Saturday at Silverstone.
Jul 4, 2015, 9:05 AM EDT
Hamilton edges out Rosberg for top spot in Q3 on Saturday at Silverstone.
Jul 4, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Can Lewis Hamilton storm to his eighth pole position of the 2015 Formula 1 season on Saturday at Silverstone?
Jul 4, 2015, 6:02 AM EDT
British driver back on top at Silverstone as Rosberg suffers another gearbox problem.
Jul 4, 2015, 4:45 AM EDT
Rosberg looks to make it a clean sweep of practice sessions on Saturday morning.
Jul 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Sirotkin claims his first pole in the GP2 Series on Friday ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne and Richie Stanaway.
Jul 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Foust seeks another win, Speed looks for bounce back from tough Daytona at MCAS.
Jul 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
The street and road course specialist gets his first taste of an oval in Iowa this week.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Wolff finishes eight-tenths of a second behind regular Williams driver Felipe Massa in FP1 on Friday.
Jul 3, 2015, 1:22 PM EDT
British driver switches back to the old setting on his Mercedes after struggling in the past four races.
Jul 3, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
Raikkonen hits back at questions about his motivation as rumors of a possible driver change at Ferrari begin to circulate.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Rosberg’s car was covered over following a stoppage in FP1.
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