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Earnhardt Jr. To Soldier On With National Guard

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 17 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will fight on with the National Guard. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Just a few weeks after a congressional effort narrowly failed that would have prohibited military sports-related sponsorships, Hendrick Motorsports announced on Friday that the National Guard will continue its relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and remain on his No. 88 Chevrolet through at least 2013.

Prior to the Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, Earnhardt referenced Georgia senator Jack Kingston, a supporter of the measure to discontinue sponsorships.

The third-generation driver said, to his knowledge, Kingston had never attended a NASCAR race and didn’t fully understand how the National Guard program functions.

When asked on Friday at Michigan International Speedway if he had considered inviting the senator to the NASCAR stop in Georgia in two weeks at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Earnhardt acknowledged that steps are under way to get the senator to a race.

“I guess someone from Hendrick Motorsports has been in touch with them trying to lure him to an event,” Earnhardt said.

“It would be a good opportunity for him to get a good glimpse of what the program is about and how it works at track. Most of our efforts are starting to gear toward other venues and getting me involved in other way trying to get more attention and more awareness for The Guard. But he is welcome to come out. Laura (Scott of Hendrick’s public relations team) says we have been reaching out from Hendrick. That is all we can do I guess.”

Kasey Kahne, a past Sprint Cup winner at Michigan, heads into Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 eleventh in the Sprint Cup standings. More importantly, he owns two victories this season which makes him a virtual lock to qualify for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

If Jeff Gordon is able to win one of the final four races prior to the start of the Chase, that would likely mean all four Hendrick drivers (Gordon, Kahne, Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson) will land a berth in NASCAR ‘s playoff format.

“We just have to see how these final four (races) play out,” Kahne said. “But, I think any one of those teams can be really strong in the Chase and show a lot of consistency and be there to win races. You’ll need to do both of those things if you want to win the championship from what we’ve seen in the past.

“ I would say Dale, as consistent as those guys have been this year, as confident, and as well as they are working with the No. 48, between those groups I could see the No. 88 running strong throughout the whole Chase and have an opportunity to win it. All the Hendrick cars can be in that scenario if things go the way that we are all shooting for.”

Five-time Cup champion Johnson took over the series points lead at Watkins Glen last week. But the standings will be re-set following Richmond next month based on victories.

Johnson reiterated on Friday in Michigan that the regular season points winner should be recognized by NASCAR in some manner.

“I’ve always felt like we should have something,” Johnson said. “It is a huge accomplishment to win the regular season points championship. I don’t even think you get a sticker for it or anything. We would all be happy with a little $5 trophy that you won the regular season championship. So, a t-shirt would be nice; anything. So, I’m up for that.

“You could even work up an argument that there’s some type of bonus points that could be awarded to the regular season champion that carries over or something in the seeding process or pit road pick or I don’t know. You dream up something there that would be nice for the champion.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 17 2012
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