Roush Fenway Racing is looking for another sponsor, as Crown Royal announced it would not be on the hood of Matt Kenseth's No. 17 in 2012.
The move comes as Crown Royal's parent company Diageo shifts its focus to race sponsorship, ending Crown Royal's seven-year run as a primary car sponsor in the Cup Series. Crown Royal will continue to be the title sponsor for the September race in Richmond.
"In evaluation of our NASCAR programming and after much consideration, we have made the decision to make a strategic shift to focus our resources against our annual Crown Royal 'Your Name Here' program," Crown Royal said in a statement. "In shifting our strategy, we will end our sponsorships with Roush Fenway Racing and NASCAR upon the conclusion of the 2011 season."
The decision is both a blow to Roush Fenway and NASCAR.
RFR is already dealing with the expiring contracts of two of its four primary sponsors – Aflac and UPS. As of now, only 3M on the hood of Greg Biffle's No. 16 is locked up for 2012.
RFR is also in negotiations with Carl Edwards, who is a free agent at the end of this season. While team owner Jack Roush hopes to re-sign his star driver, Edwards is the one who holds the power in the negotiation. He's received plenty of interest from other teams, and sponsors are sure to follow him, not RFR. If he leaves, so, too, could the likes of AFLAC and its sponsor dollars.
The organization did announce Tuesday that Kenseth had picked up Affliction, the clothing line popular with mixed martial arts fans, as a primary sponsor for two more races in 2011.
"It's unfortunate that [Crown Royal] will not be able to continue to be a part of our organization," team president Steve Newmark said in a statement. "Fortunately, our race programs are operating at a higher level than ever. The No. 17 is an attractive, championship-winning program with a storied history and Matt Kenseth an elite driver. We have already opened the door for discussions and are currently in the process of speaking with companies interested in taking over the program for next season and beyond."
Kenseth, who's won twice this season, is currently sixth in the Cup standings
For NASCAR, this is the departure of yet another top-dollar sponsor. Just last week, Red Bull announced it was leaving the sport at the end of the season. Kenseth gained Crown Royal as a primary sponsor when DeWalt ended its long-time relationship with the No. 17 at the end of the 2009 season. And Crown Royal was the last of the distilled liquor sponsors, which were allowed back into the sport in 2005. Jim Beam and Jack Daniel's both ended their sponsorships in previous years.