Earnhardt goes on offensive to defend military sponsorship of NASCAR teams
By RICK MINTER / Universal Click
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend, and he scored some points on the sponsorship front.
Earnhardt, who won the Showdown to advance to the Sprint All-Star race where he finished fifth, was asked the day before to respond to a move in Congress that would ban sponsorships of race teams by branches of the military. He showed some political savvy, or perhaps evidence of some coaching by his team’s public relations staff, by throwing the ball, so to speak, back into the court of Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who sponsored the legislation before the House Appropriations Committee, which approved the measure, which still must pass several more steps before becoming final.
“I think the Republican from Georgia that is heading the bill hasn’t even been to a NASCAR race,” said Earnhardt, whose No. 88 Chevrolet is backed by the National Guard. “At least it states that in the article [that appeared in newspapers on Friday].
“I would encourage them to do more homework, get more facts, understand the situation a little more. I know just talking to the [National] Guard, and we went through this before, and talking to them, they can’t express to me enough how much this program helps their recruiting. They are committed to the belief it has a profound effect on their recruiting and their ability to recruit. It’s important for them to be visible and to push their brand, and work on their brand, giving people an opportunity to learn more about how to get involved in the military.”
Earnhardt pointed out that NASCAR has proven to be a great vehicle for any entity to use to get their message to the masses.
“We are one of the biggest sports,” he said. “We’ve got more people attending races and attending our sport than a lot of other avenues they could be going. I think it’s good and healthy for them to be here. I think it works for them or they wouldn’t be a part of it.”
He also joked that he was surprised that a conservative politician from deep in traditional NASCAR country hasn’t been to a race, since many people running for office in the past have made appearances at races, which tend to attract audiences that share their political beliefs.
“Just because he’s a Republican from Georgia, he should have seen a NASCAR race by now,” Earnhardt said, adding that a trip to a race would be educational as well. “[Kingston] could come along and visit with the Guard and talk with the Guard – talk to the people that are at the particular races, and see what the experience is like for them. See how the guard utilizes their program and their marketing within the sport.
“If he hasn’t been to a race, he’s not seen it firsthand. Then he can make his decision.”
Others that could be affected by a cut in military sponsorships are Ryan Newman, whose No. 39 Chevrolet is sponsored by the U.S. Army, Aric Almirola, whose No. 43 Ford is backed by the Air Force and Don Schumacher’s teams in the NHRA.