Blue Light Dims On Haas Carter

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Haas-Carter Motorsports has lost its primary sponsorship from financially beleaguered Kmart, a source close to the team told RacingOne Thursday.

Drivers Joe Nemechek and Todd Bodine will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500, but the status of the team for the rest of the season is unknown.

Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Jan. 22, but said it would continue sponsorship of both Nemechek’s No. 26 and Bodine’s No. 66 Fords. The company announced Tuesday it had “made significant progress in its reorganization in the past week.”

Kmart spokesman Dave Karraker said the company was still looking at its options. He said a statement leaked early Thursday quoting Kmart CEO Charles C. Conoway as saying the company was pulling its sponsorship was “unofficial.” Karraker said he hoped the company would have an official statement Thursday, but one won't be coming until Friday.

Nemechek joined the team in the offseason, interestingly leaving Andy Petree Racing’s No. 33 because it didn’t have full-time sponsorship. Recently, Nemechek talked positively about the season.

“Everybody is really pumped up right now, including myself,” Nemechek said. “All the guys on the team they're working hard.”

During the UAW-GM Motorsports Lowe’s Motor Speedway Media Tour in mid-January, Carter, Bodine and Nemechek praised Kmart for their efforts, and Kmart officials at that time said that they would honor their contracts with the teams.

In fact, Kmart announced it was introducing a new program into their motorsports efforts called “School Spirit,” a multimillion dollar fund-raising opportunity for K-12 schools nationwide. That program was to be featured on the No. 26 Ford driven by Nemechek.

Kmart came on board with Travis Carter's race team as the sponsor for Darrell Waltrip's No. 66 Ford in 1999, and then Spencer's No. 26 Ford in 2000. Previously, Spencer's car was sponsored by Winston and the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Waltrip retired after the 2000 season and Bodine took over in the No. 66 Ford.

Haas-Carter won five poles with Bodine and Jimmy Spencer in 2001, with Spencer finishing 16th and Bodine 29th in the final Winston Cup points standings. Spencer, who moved to Chip Ganassi Racing for 2002, posted three top-five and eight top-10 finishes.

Bodine, who won three poles, had two top-five finishes but 12 DNFs for the season.

Haas-Carter was in the final year of its contract with Kmart and hoped to continue the sponsorship beyond 2002.

Carter, a former Winston Cup crew chief, formed Travis Carter Racing in 1989 with Rick Mast as driver. In 1989, Carter took on longtime Indy-car owner Carl Haas as a partner, and in 1999 fielded a two-car team in Winston Cup.

Carter doesn’t have a victory in Winston Cup as a car owner and didn’t have a pole until Bodine qualified first for the Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in July.

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