Sponsoring Junior: Earnhardt Saga Concludes in Dallas

Adam AmickSenior Writer ISeptember 19, 2007

Finally, the trilogy that is the "Saga of Junior" is complete.

The third installment starring NASCAR’s most popular driver hits the big screen today, capping what has been a cliffhanger season for millions of fans.

Jason Bourne, Danny Ocean, and Shrek didn’t create this much sustained buzz.

In May, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that he'd be leaving his late father’s company, Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated (DEI), to sow his oats elsewhere. The news wasn't a surprise, as it had been preceded by months of hints and speculation.

A rift between Junior and his stepmother Teresa Earnhardt formed the backdrop. Difference of opinion, desire for power, and loyalty to the family name molded the plot.

As the lights came up, rumors flew about what would follow—and fans frantically sought clues of the storyline in the sequel.

They didn’t have to wait long.

In June, the second installment of the saga proved to be a shocker: Junior would be driving for “the enemy”—Hendrick Motorsports.

Worse, he'd be teammates with the man his fans have loathed for years—Jeff Gordon.


The writers had outdone themselves. Who could have scripted this? Call the Oscar committee.

And now, finally, the last pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.

Budweiser won't be coming with Junior to Hendrick; the company will break out of its contract with DEI and sponsor Kasey Kahne's No. 9 car in 2008. What's more, the “evil” stepmother has opted to keep the No. 8 in her clutches, forcing Junior to find a new ride.

What number will Junior be—08, 81, 88? Who will be his sponsor—Mountain Dew, Pepsi, AMP Energy Drink?

We'll find out today. Perhaps a plot twist that only Jack Bauer could handle is in the making.

Junior fans have been saving their money to spend the moment merchandise is available. The announcement will certainly be an end-of-summer blockbuster for retailers—and items aplenty will be lining shelves just in time for the Christmas season.

Our star and his new boss have traveled to Dallas, Texas, for the premier—away from the home confines of Charlotte. Cue the lights, cameras, and media glitz, as the curtain goes up on the final chapter of the trilogy...

And the answer to all the questions are:

Car number 88, and co-sponsors Mountain Dew/Amp Energy Drink and National Guard.

(complete coverage from Dallas to follow...)