Earnhardt Reacts To National Guard's Announcement
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 8, 2014 | 12:48 P.M. EST
Dale Earnhardt Jr. called it an "honor" to represent the National Guard and hopes to do so again in the future. (Photo: Getty Images)
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t express surprise Friday with the National Guard’s announcement that it will end its sponsorship of his Sprint Cup team and an IndyCar team, noting “the debate in Washington for several years.
“I really don’t have any details on anything,’’ he said Friday at Watkins Glen International. That’s between the Guard and (Hendrick Motorsports) to sort all that out. Really enjoyed working with them over the last seven years and hope to be able to continue to represent them. It’s a huge honor.’’
The Army National Guard stated its contacts in NASCAR and IndyCar are set to expire after this season. Hendrick Motorsports issued a statement this week saying that it has a contract in place for next season with the Guard and that it had not been approached about “potential changes.’’
Military sports sponsorships have come under increased scrutiny from Congressional members in recent years. An amendment to ban such tax-payer funded sponsorships has been voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives four times since 2011. It was defeated each time. A Senate subcommittee hearing May 8 raised questions about the Army National Guard’s sponsorship and its effectiveness with recruiting.
During the hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting director of the Army National Guard: “I don’t understand ... how you can justify the fact that nobody is getting recruited from NASCAR. The facts speak for themselves. The data is very clear. You’re not getting recruits off NASCAR. This is data you gave us. The reason we know is this because you told us.’’
Said Earnhardt on Friday about the National Guard’s program: “I think it’s been very, very effective.’’
McCaskill issued a statement about the Guard’s decision, saying: "I'm a NASCAR fan, and I love the National Guard—but spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on a recruitment program that signed up zero recruits, and that has been abandoned by other service branches as ineffective, just makes no sense."
The military branch will spend $32 million on its NASCAR program, which includes activation fees and other costs beyond what goes directly to the team. The Army National Guard spends $12 million on its IndyCar program.
The Army National Guard cited “significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions” as a reason for eliminating its last two sports sponsorship programs. The Army National Guard had cut sponsorship of four sports since 2012. It expects its marketing budget for fiscal 2015 to be about half of what it was in fiscal 2012.