Nemechek Homeless In 2002

EAST FLAT ROCK, N.C. – Oh, the irony. The tremendous irony.

One day after Andy Petree Racing won the first race of its nearly five-year existence, the multi-car organization has announced it is losing the primary sponsor for one of its two cars, effective at the end of the 2001 season.

Oakwood Homes, which has backed Petree’s No. 33 Chevrolet for the past two-plus seasons, will not return next season in that role. That leaves the team and driver Joe Nemechek in a search mode for financial backing.

Bobby Hamilton, driver of Petree’s No. 55 Square D Chevrolet, won Sunday’s Talladega 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Petree’s first victory as a car owner and the first victory for Square D itself after several years as a primary sponsor in the Winston Cup Series.

The manufactured home market has hit a skid recently, contributing to Oakwood Homes’ decision.

“We would like to be able to continue our association with Andy Petree Racing and we know Andy would like for us to stay,” said Mike Taylor, senior vice president of Oakwood Homes Corp. “The fact of the matter is we are not in a position to continue our sponsorship of the No. 33 car after this season.

“We told Andy that because of ongoing cost reduction initiatives at Oakwood Homes, because of the deep downturn in the manufactured home industry, we are simply not able to exercise our option to extend, for a third year, our primary sponsorship. This has been a tremendous association for us and one which we have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. Outside forces, things that have nothing to do with the race car, are dictating this.”

Nemechek finished sixth at Talladega Sunday and is 25th in the Winston Cup points standings. He finished 15th in the points a year ago, and Ken Schrader finished 15th in the points in 1999 with the same sponsor.

Oakwood Homes has also sponsored Petree’s Busch Series cars and Schrader’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series vehicles in selected races in the past.

Coming off the high of Hamilton’s victory at Talladega Sunday, Petree said he understands Oakwood Homes’ situation.

“Everybody on our race team has really enjoyed working with the people at Oakwood Homes,” Petree said. “They have been great to us and true supporters in every sense of the word. I feel bad for them because I believe they would have loved to have remained a part of this and, without the problems in their industry right now, most likely would have.

“Now we’ve got to really beat the bushes and find sponsorship for this team. I feel really positive that someone is going to realize what a strong organization this is and come on board. Oakwood is working with us in every way they can, including allowing a new sponsor to begin before this season is out if they want to. That’s pretty big of them, and I really appreciate that.”

Hamilton’s victory Sunday certainly won’t hurt the efforts of Petree’s sponsorship search team. Hamilton is currently fourth in the Winston Cup standings, 25 points behind second-place Jeff Gordon and 170 points behind leader Dale Jarrett.

“Andy Petree Racing is a tremendous marketing vehicle,” Taylor said. “We’ll do everything we can to assist Andy in securing a primary sponsor for the 33 car next season. If finding that sponsor means we have to back off before this year is out, we would do that. We are fans of not just the sport and not just these two great race teams, but fans of the work ethic and strong organizational skills at Andy Petree Racing.”

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