The National Guard will not be returning to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car. But the timing of that departure may be unclear.
"Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business," said Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting director of the Army National Guard said in a statement announcing the end of the sponsorship for Earnhardt Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series and Graham Rahal in the IndyCar Series.
The statement said the Guard spent $32 million in NASCAR and $12 million in IndyCar on sponsorship. It also said that the contracts ended at the end of the 2014 season. However Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt Jr.'s team, said in a statement to USA Today that the contract between the Guard and the team runs through the 2015 season.
The National Guard has been Earnhardt Jr.'s primary sponsor this season, though it does not have a full season sponsorship. Diet Mountain Dew is on the car for five races this season and Kelley Blue Book sponsored a race. Earnhardt Jr. is one of the priciest sponsorships in NASCAR. But he's also driving for a very competitive team and the sport's most popular driver. It's for a reason.
The Guard's statement also said that its 2015 marketing budget is approximately half of what it was in 2012.
The Army ended its NASCAR sponsorship program in 2012, also for budget-related reasons. The Army last served as sponsor for Ryan Newman at Stewart-Haas Racing. It still sponsors Tony Schumacher in the NHRA's Top Fuel division.
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