It all makes sense—Kevin Harvick needs a sponsor and Budweiser needs a new star driver. It’s a prediction that the majority of NASCAR Nation were predicting earlier this year. Well, this prediction may actually come true.
Harvick was left without a sponsor for 2011 after Shell/Pennzoil made an announcement in April that they’d be leaving RCR for Penske Racing driver Kurt Busch.
On August 7, Marty Smith revealed in his door-to-door article on ESPN.com that sources were telling him that Harvick would have split sponsorship in 2011, with Budweiser taking the majority of the races.
At the time, Richard Childress Racing and Budweiser both had no comments for Smith.
Though Smith went on to add that his sources did say, “Harvick did himself a huge favor with the way he conducted himself in Victory Lane at the Shootout in February—beer in hand while saying and doing the right things in front of the company's new management.”
Yesterday, SceneDaily confirmed Smith’s findings as their sources told them that the deal is close to being done and is in it’s final stages with an announcement coming next week.
Currently, Budweiser sponsors the No. 9 Ford driven by Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) driver Kasey Kahne. However, Kahne will be leaving at season’s end to drive for Red Bull Racing in 2011 and Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, replacing Mark Martin. As the deal looks right now, GoDaddy will carry their sponsorship from Martin to Kahne, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.
Budweiser, meanwhile, decided to also leave RPM after Kahne’s departure.
“Budweiser has decided to go in another direction with regard to its driver/team sponsorship and will announce those plans in the very near future,” Mark Wright, Vice President, Media, Sports & Entertainment Marketing for Anheuser-Busch, Inc., said in a statement provided by the company.
“We enjoyed our three-year relationship with Kasey Kahne and wish him all the best in the future.”
Budweiser has been involved with NASCAR since 1984 when they were paired up with team owner Junior Johnson. They have also spent time at Hendrick Motorsports (1995-1999) and at Dale Earnhardt Incorperated with Dale Earnhardt Jr. from 2000-2007. When Earnhardt Jr. made the move to Hendrick, Budweiser paired up with Kahne and Gillett Evernham Motorsports, which is now known as Richard Petty Motorsports.
This looks to be the perfect partnership, once again for Budweiser, though one could argue there could be brand identity problems. NASCAR fans like to align brands with drivers, though with Budweiser constantly moving star-to-star, that could cause some issues in the fans' eyes.
As far as the current sponsorship situation at RPM, officials haven’t announced any plans yet though co-owners Richard Petty and Foster Gillett said announcements are planned for the future.
So far they’ve announced a contract extension with driver A.J. Allmendinger while both Elliott Sadler and Paul Menard look to be following in Kahne’s footsteps. Sadler told SceneDaily last month that he’s had no talks with team officials and doesn’t expect to be back. Meanwhile, Menard is rumored to be heading over to RCR in a fourth car there.
With regards to who will replace Kahne, which could possibly be Marcos Ambrose, who recently announced that he was leaving JTG-Daughtry Racing.