Sunday, September 2, 2007
Sources: Mountain Dew, Amp to be Dale Jr.'s primary sponsors
By Terry Blount
FONTANA, Calif. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports are expected to announce later this month PepsiCo Inc. products Mountain Dew and Amp energy drink are his primary sponsors for next season, sources confirmed Sunday.
Earnhardt said Friday that he has a number and sponsors in place for next season but that everyone will have to wait to find out what those are.
"When we're ready to announce it, it won't be on pit road after a qualifying lap," Earnhardt said after his qualifying run at California Speedway. "We'll do it in a press conference."
Earnhardt said that the announcement would come within a couple of weeks and that he's happy with the decisions that were made.
When asked whether crew chief Tony Eury Jr. would be following him to Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt said: "We don't have an announcement, but Tony Jr. is working in that direction."
Several reports this week said Hendrick Motorsports has applied for trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for five numbers -- 81, 82, 51, 58 and 38.
David Gilliland uses the 38 at Yates/Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. Team president Doug Yates told ESPN.com on Thursday that he prefers to keep the number.
Earnhardt said people need to stop worrying about the number.
"The attention placed on this is a little bit over the top," Earnhardt said. "I am more excited on who the sponsor will be and what the car will look like, and what our approach will be as far as marketing ourselves with our new partners."
Tony Stewart agrees that the Earnhardt number mania is out of control: "It's ridiculous. If Joe Gibbs [Stewart's team owner] came to me tomorrow and said we were changing my number next season, I'd say, 'OK. Whatever. Who cares?'"
Brad Keselowski, who drives the No. 88 Chevrolet for Junior Motorsports in the Busch Series, was examined and released from Loma Linda University Medical Center, where CT scans and X-rays on his left ankle and chest Saturday night were negative.
Keselowski was airlifted to the hospital after a scary four-car crash in the Camping World 300 at California Speedway. Keselowski's car spun backward and made violent impact with the SAFER barrier.
As a standard procedure, Keselowski will have further evaluation by Dr. Jerry Petty, a neurosurgeon, this week in North Carolina.
Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked Friday about Keselowski, saying he wants to hire him full time for 2008.
"I think Brad is really talented, and I think he's great for a team like ours," Earnhardt said. "We're going to sit down with his lawyer next week, but I also have to make sure the Navy folks [the primary sponsor of the No. 88 Chevy] are OK with it."
On a deadline
Nextel Cup team owner Richard Childress said he has a drop-dead date of the end of September to make a decision on a full-time fourth car for the 2008 season.
Childress listed the chances of working everything out at 50/50.
"We were looking at the 15th of September, but it's probably closer to the end of September now," Childress said. "If we don't have something solid together, I'm not going to do it just to do it."
Childress, an avid big-game hunter, is leaving this week for a hunting trip in Mongolia. But he'll stay in touch with the people at Richard Childress Racing who are working on the deal for a fourth car.
"It has to be the right situation," he said. "When I get back, if we haven't gotten things lined up the way I want it, then we won't do it."
Childress was asked whether J.J. Yeley still was a candidate to drive a fourth RCR car next year.
"I'm still interested, but I think he's already gone to the 88," Childress said.
Childress believes Yeley will sign with Yates/Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing to drive the No. 88 Ford next season. Childress also is talking to 2007 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti about moving to NASCAR.
J.J. Yeley said Friday that he should have a decision within two weeks about which team he will drive for next season. Kyle Busch is replacing Yeley in the No. 18 car at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Yeley said he has been pleasantly surprised at the amount of interest other Nextel Cup team owners have shown in hiring him.
Yeley has spoken with Robert Yates about the opening in the No. 88 Ford. He also has talked to Richard Childress about the possibility of running a fourth car for RCR next season.
Yeley also might be in the running to replace Scott Riggs in the No. 10 Dodge for Gillett Evernham Motorsports.
What happens with that car depends on what Valvoline officials want. Valvoline is the co-owner of the No. 10 Dodge and has major input into who drives the car.
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at