The Frontstretch: It's Official : Junior To Drive No. 88 Car For Hendrick In 2008 by Thomas Bowles -- Wednesday September 19, 2007

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It's Official : Junior To Drive No. 88 Car For Hendrick In 2008

Thomas Bowles · Wednesday September 19, 2007


We already knew the driver. We already knew the team. All we needed to find out was the number and sponsor for NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver next season.

Well, turns out we already knew that, too.

After the cat was let out of the bag last week, Hendrick Motorsports made it official at a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Dallas : Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be driving a No. 88 Chevrolet for them in 2008. Primary sponsorship will come from both PepsiCo – through their Mountain Dew and AMP Energy drinks – as well as the National Guard. In the meantime, Casey Mears will move to the No. 5 car with sponsorship from Kellogg’s and CARQUEST, while the No. 25 will no longer be used by Hendrick Motorsports. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

On the sponsorship side, it was a landmark opportunity for Mountain Dew, which returns as a full-time NASCAR sponsor for the first time since 1982. PepsiCo CEO Dawn Hudson was on hand for the announcement, and was forthright about the excitement the company has towards increasing their support of the series.

“We really have a great history with NASCAR, and with Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports, so it’s really exciting to extend that and work with Dale, Jr.” she said during the press conference. “I can already tell you the ideas that Dale Jr. has, that our marketing people have, that our bottlers have, are outstanding. We’re going to put that together and do some things we’ve done in the past, but we’re going to do some new things. I think that is going to be exciting.”

“I’ve been a big fan of Mountain Dew for a very long time,” Junior said. “They have a great history, and have been a sponsor in motorsports for nearly 50 years, so it sounded like a great opportunity and a great fit for me.”

“I’ve had several chances over the past several years to be involved in the military, and the National Guard also had a relationship with Rick…so that was a great fit, too. I was at the right place at the right time.”

Lieutenant General Clyde Vaughn from the National Guard echoed the excitement and importance for Dale Jr. to be a part of their program in 2008.

“The recruiting aspect for us, we have to recruit some 70,000 Army Guard soldiers a year,” he explained. “This is big business. It just so happens that the strong point of recruiting the force happens to be exactly where the NASCAR Nation is.”

“We put all that together, and we think about the most popular driver, you don’t have to be real smart to figure this out (how it could work). But we’re proud to be on this team and we’re proud about the attention it draws to our organization, an institution that’s 370 years old, older than the nation.”

Then, there’s that little issue of a number. Having secured the rights through negotiations with Robert Yates Racing, Dale Jr. will continue the legacy of his grandfather, Ralph, by having not one but two 8s emblazoned on the side of his Budweiser Chevrolet. But ironically, it was a movement to obtain one of Yates’ old numbers – the No. 28 – that really got things moving in earnest.

“We called Robert to talk to him about us running the 28,” said Junior concerning the acqusition. “He showed some interest in maybe allowing us to just have No. 88. So that was really sort of a stroke of luck, in my opinion. I was very fortunate that Kelley was smart enough to make that call. She earned her paycheck that day.”

Indeed, Earnhardt’s sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge was once again given extensive credit throughout the press conference for helping arrange all sorts of details, three months after she had brought the Hendrick-Earnhardt relationship together in the first place. But in the end, Junior said acquiring the number came down to fan support.

“I was really trying to do the best I could to do good by my fans because that was very important for them,” he explained. “That was one of the more popular questions, is would it have an 8 in it? What’s the number? What’s the number? So I think they can be twice as happy about the situation.”

“It’s got to be sort of a relief for them and they got to be pretty happy about it. I know I’ve been really excited to make this announcement, not only with the sponsors but the number as well. So this is a great, great day for me.”

The No. 88 AMP/Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet will make its on-track debut at the 2008 Daytona 500.

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09/19/2007 07:35 PM

Proud for Junior, glad the numbers thing and sponsor thing is decided.
Wouldn’t care myself if
he drove the #57 Chicken PPit Chevrolet. Now, all yyou people can go out and buy all new merchandise to wear to the racetrack, or to the local Applebee’s or wherever. Maybe beanie bbabies could be the sponsor

09/20/2007 06:58 AM

I’m still trying to figure out this “legacy “ surrounding the use of the 8. Ralph used the number yes, but so have many others over the years. Same with the 88 . Ralph hardly used that number at all , but now for some reason it is sacred . Get over this foolishness and move on .

09/20/2007 07:29 AM

What a waste of time! Who cares what number or sponsor a driver has? Get over it and move on. Right on Marc! Now all those who are sucked into the souvenir market can spend their hard earned dollars to enrich Jr., Hendrick, and NASCAR even more. They all get a cut. If his sponsor changes again in a year or so they can do it again, and they all believe that stuff will be valuable some day. Good luck, all you are doing is paying for Jr’s private jet.

William T.
09/20/2007 07:32 AM

Jr. sucks

09/20/2007 09:31 AM

Doesn’t it seem like Dale JR is being played like a puppet by Kelley and the Hendrick PR machine ? I suspect his sister has been manipulating JR for some time to get where she wants to go.

Butch Camp
09/20/2007 03:36 PM

Saw a picture of the car on Jayski Silly Season site.Man that is one ugly car.

Barry Kentrup
09/20/2007 08:27 PM

Robert Yates is one class act. He did what teresa should have done right away. Can’t wait to get to the track to BOO Mark Martin and Aric in the NEW 8 car.

Butch Camp
09/21/2007 05:30 AM

People need to quit blaming Teresa for Jr.‘s problems DEI belongs to her apparently that’s what Dale wanted,he made the will not her. Jr’s biggest problem is his sister, not Teresa, Kelly is useing him to try to get what she wants, while screwing him up, he’s apparantly to dumb to see it.Teresa’s running the business in a responsible way. It’s doubtful Jr. could make it a winner like the other premier teams, after all Jr. Motorsports isn’t exactly out running the competition in the Busch series


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