NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt Jr. reacts to loss of National Guard sponsorship

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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.

Formula 1: Ricciardo nurses power unit trouble to win in Monaco

Photo: Getty Images
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Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo had dominated the Monaco Grand Prix weekend heading into Sunday, topping every practice session and laying down a lap-record 1:10.810 to secure the pole.

The race itself was also going according to plan for Ricciardo, as he got the jump off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on the start to lead into Sainte Devote.

However, on Lap 28, after the leaders all made their lone pit stops of the race, Ricciardo’s day nearly came unglued when he reported a loss of power on his RB14.

With the Red Bull team monitoring the issue, Vettel was able to close back in on Ricciardo and began stalking him for the lead.

However, Ricciardo brilliantly utilized a combination of late-braking and sustained cornering speed to keep Vettel at bay and secure his first victory at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The victory, Ricciardo’s second of the 2018 Formula 1 season, serves as sweet redemption after a pit stop error cost him a possible victory in 2016, when he settled for second behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel, meanwhile, saw his challenge hampered after a Lap 72 Virtual Safety Car for a crash between Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley – Leclerc suffered brake failure on the run up to the Nouvelle Chicane, and collected Hartley in the process.

When the VSC ended, Vettel could not get his Pirellis back up to temperature, and Ricciardo pulled away in the final laps.

While Vettel ended up second, Hamilton rounded out the podium in third, despite struggling with a graining issue on his Pirelli ultrasofts in the second half of the race. Hamilton held off Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who also fended off Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas for fourth – the trio finished up third (Hamilton), fourth (Raikkonen), and fifth (Bottas).

Esteban Ocon was sixth for Force India, with Pierre Gasly coming home a strong seventh for Toro Rosso. Nico Hulkenberg ended up eighth for Renault, while Max Verstappen came home ninth after starting last – Verstappen ran long on his first stint before switching to hypersofts on Lap 48. He ran the hypers all the way to the end to finish ninth.

Carlos Sainz Jr. was the final points finisher, coming home tenth for Renault.

Results are below.

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