NASCAR: Drive to End Hunger returning as primary sponsor for Jeff Gordon

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Hendrick Motorsports may be losing the backing of the National Guard at season’s end, but has retained another of its more prominent sponsors.

The AARP’s Drive to End Hunger campaign will again be featured on Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet next season, serving as a primary sponsor for 13 races (including the Daytona 500) and as an associate in all other Sprint Cup events.

“What’s been accomplished by Drive to End Hunger in a relatively short time is absolutely inspiring,” HMS owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. “At the beginning, we felt the program would ultimately be judged on how many lives it impacted.

“There’s no question it’s been successful by that measure, but we still have much more to do. Our team is proud to continue the effort alongside our friends at AARP and AARP Foundation and with the incredible support of the NASCAR community.”

Since the campaign’s inception in 2011, more than 30 million meals have been donated as part of its effort to fight hunger among adults over the age of 50 and help create short and long-term solutions to older adult hunger.

Next season will mark the AARP’s fifth as a primary sponsor for Gordon and the No. 24 team.

“NASCAR fans have been such a big part of the success of Drive to End Hunger, and we’re really grateful for that,” said Gordon, who continues to sit atop the Sprint Cup championship standings going into this weekend’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.

“I’ve seen them packing meals, texting donations and getting involved in their communities. AARP and AARP Foundation are incredible partners to be involved with, and I’m very happy to continue our work together. It’s been an extremely rewarding and humbling experience for me personally.”

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.