Donlavey Lands Sponsor

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NASCAR Winston Cup Series team owner Junie Donlavey has made a full-time commitment to driver Rick Mast for Mast to drive his Fords next season, and sponsorship will come from the C.F. Sauer Company, Donlavey said Tuesday.

A formal announcement is scheduled for Wednesday at Sauer’s headquarters in Richmond, Va., which is the same city Donlavey Racing is based.

Mast replaced Hut Stricklin in the final five races of the 2001 season after Stricklin decided to join Bill Davis Racing for next year. Sponsor Hills Bros. Coffee didn’t like the switch and terminated its contract with Donlavey. Hills Bros. is following Stricklin to BDR.

The Donlavey/Mast/Sauer combination is an all-Virginia hookup, as Mast hails from Rockbridge Baths, Va.

“I’ve known him since he first started beating his brains out on the little short tracks in the Late Models,” Donlavey said. “We’ve just been good friends down through the years. Two or three times, we almost hooked up together. Either he would be ahead of me or I’d be ahead of him, and we never really got the chance to get together. This one worked out real good.”

With Stricklin behind the wheel for 21 races, Brian Simo for one and Mast for three, Donlavey finished 40th in the Winston Cup owner points standings.

C.F. Sauer came to NASCAR in 2001 with the ill-fated Eel River Racing team, which folded before the season ended. Sauer sponsored a second Donlavey car at the second Talladega race, but Mast failed to qualify. Sauer has several food brands, including Dukes Mayonnaise, Bama, Gold Medal and Mrs. Filberts.

Donlavey said he has a verbal agreement with the company, but expected to seal the deal Tuesday afternoon.

“I haven’t signed the contract yet,” Donlavey said. “We’re supposed to go over there today.”

He also said the contract amount was comparable to what he got from Hills Bros.

“If I was in Charlotte, I’d need a heck of a lot more than I’ve gotten at any time,” Donlavey said. “Up here, we can do what we need to do.”

Philippe Lopez was a consultant with Donlavey, working as Stricklin’s crew chief. Lopez went to Davis’ team, too, leaving Donlavey without a crew chief.

“We’re talking to a couple of good ones,” Donlavey said. “Whomever I get, I want him to be agreeable to Rick. He’s the one that’s got to live with him.”

Donlavey said the Stricklin/Hills Bros. controversy left a bit of a bad taste in his mouth.

“To a certain extent it did, but I try not to ever hold a grudge,” Donlavey said. “It ruins your life when you do. I did everything I could to help him get back on the circuit. Maybe he didn’t plan it the way it happened, so I just accepted what came along. I’ve found out through life that if you have problems, the longer you dwell on them, the worse they get. So get off of them and move on.”

That’s what Donlavey has done, and he has a new sponsor and driver to prove it.

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