Hendrick ‘close’ on Earnhardt deal

Rick Hendrick said on Sunday that he’s “close” to announcing a new sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his No. 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup team. An announcement could come as early as the July 8 race weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

“We’re very close,” Hendrick said. “Again, we’ve had lots of interest. But we’ve got something real nice that fits well. You’ve got to remember, too, I’ve got a lot of sponsors – so there’s a lot of conflicts. I’ve had many deals I could take but it would have conflicted with my other guys. I think this will be a pretty neat deal when we get to announce it. It’s never done til it’s done, but I think we’re in good shape.”

Hendrick believes that bringing a new sponsor to NASCAR could signal the start to a slow recovery in terms of corporate partnership in racing. Hendrick said that just recently Great Clips, which has sponsored Kasey Kahne for three Cup races this season, has also extended its support. Sources say Great Clips will expand its involvement to 10 races in 2014.

“There haven’t been a lot of new sponsors in the sport,” Hendrick said. “It’s just been because of the economy and how people go to market and a combination of a lot of things. But there’s always been a lot of interest in him. There’s some of our sponsors expanding again so that’s great. When you look at our numbers compared to basketball and some of the other sports, I think we’re in pretty good shape. The races are good, I feel good about it.”

On Friday, Hendrick received more good news as the amendment proposed by Rep. Betty McCollum aimed at prohibiting government spending on sponsorships in NASCAR and pro wrestling was defeated. If passed, it would have prevented the National Guard from continued sponsorship of NASCAR, as well as IndyCar racing and World Wrestling Entertainment.

The National Guard increased its involvement with Hendrick’s Sprint Cup program from 18 to 20 races this season.

“It was a big win,” Hendrick said. “It’s really a statement about how the Guard feels about the sport, what it does about their recruiting.”