The most popular driver in NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will have a new primary sponsor starting in the 2015 season after an agreement was reached with Nationwide Insurance on a three-year deal.
Earnhardt made the announcement on YouTube:
Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News provided further details about the new deal:
Nationwide-Dale Jr deal is for 12 Sprint Cup races in 2015 then actually 13 events in both 2016 and 2017. #nascar— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) May 2, 2014
He also passed along comments from Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt's current team, about continuing to work with Farmers Insurance for other cars:
HMS: "The announcement regarding the No. 88 team does not impact our ability to continue the (Farmers) partnership beyond 2014." #nascar— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) May 2, 2014
Earnhardt, who currently sits fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, is by far the biggest fan favorite in the sport and gets plenty of television time. Scoring a sponsorship deal with his No. 88 car is a major get for any company.
Since the agreement is for 12 or 13 races each year over the duration of the deal, there figures to be a rotation of multiple primary sponsors over the course of the 36-race season. The terms of the deal were not released as part of the announcement.
Where will Dale Jr. finish this season?
As for now, Earnhardt will remain focused about chasing down his first career Sprint Cup title. His best seasonal finish came in 2003 when he ranked third. But he's already found Victory Lane once this season and is a serious championship contender.
Given the new deal, few will be cheering for him harder than the executives at Nationwide. Perhaps the only way for Earnhardt to garner more attention during a race is if he's the defending champion during the first year of the new sponsorship agreement.
It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility after a strong start to 2014.