Nationwide Comes To Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Side For More Races In 2015By Chris Knight
The Columbus, Ohio-based company will vacate its title role of the sport’s secondary series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series to become the leading supporter of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet for now 21 races for each of the next three seasons.
In May, Nationwide Insurance announced that they would partner with Earnhardt Jr. for 12 races next year and 13 events in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Friday’s announcement deepens the partnership by nine races for 2015 beginning with the February’s Daytona 500.
Nationwide’s decision to expand their presence stems from a decision by the National Guard, which announced earlier this summer that they were dropping their Motorsports program, which also included a Verizon IndyCar Series team driven by Graham Rahal.
“That Nationwide has already elected to grow the sponsorship sends a clear message about the opportunities they see and how well our teams are working together,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “It’s quickly become a strong relationship, and we’re committed to building on that foundation and delivering results in every facet of the program.”
While Hendrick Motorsports insists it has a contract with the National Guard through 2015, the organization also released a statement Friday that certified discussions are (still) ongoing.
“Representing the National Guard and its Citizen Soldiers is an extraordinary honor and source of pride for our entire organization. Communication is ongoing with regard to the future of the sponsorship, which is contracted through the 2015 season.”
The writing is on the wall though that Hendrick Motorsports seems confident that the National Guard will not honor their agreement for next year, forcing Hendrick Motorsports to quickly shuffle talks to potential candidates to replace them. Nationwide jumped on the opportunity and now will expand their presence as a majority backer for 2015 and beyond.Earnhardt, 39, is a two-time Nationwide Series champion and has 22 career points-paying Sprint Cup victories. NASCAR’s 11-time most popular driver, he has won three races (thus far) in 2014, including his second career Daytona 500, and currently sits second in the standings. The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native recently clinched a fourth consecutive appearance in the championship-deciding Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which will begin following Richmond.
“I know the people at Nationwide extremely well and truly appreciate how invested they are in our team and our sport,” said Earnhardt Jr, whose family has been insured by Nationwide for more than 35 years and who has been featured in its national advertising since 2009. “It’s extremely gratifying that they recognize so much value in the partnership and want to do more. Having this kind of support and seeing so many positive things happening around the team feels really good.”
Earnhardt Jr. is debuting his Nationwide paint scheme on his No. 88 Chevrolet SS this weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 is the only race that one of the nation’s largest insurance companies will back in 2014.
Follow Chris Knight on Twitter @Knighter01.
Article Tags: Dale Earnhardt Jr, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, No. 88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet SS, NSCS