NASCAR NOTEBOOK

Nationwide joins sponsorship rotation for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comMay 2, 2014 

NASCAR Richmond Auto Racing

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been associated with Nationwide Insurance for a long time (just watch his commercials for the company). Now, Nationwide has become a sponsor of Earnhardt’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

STEVE HELBER — AP

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he likes having multiple companies share sponsorship of the No. 88 Chevrolet.

Even if he didn’t like it, that’s how it has to be. The days of one sponsor paying all the bills are about over in Sprint Cup.

Nationwide Insurance has joined the National Guard and Diet Mountain Dew as rotating sponsors on the No. 88.

“I don’t know if (rotating sponsors) is a sign of anything positive or negative,” Earnhardt said. “I just think it’s an evolution of how sponsorships have changed.

“We used to think it was a wild thing when a guy (owned) two race cars out there. Nowadays, there are owners with four-car teams and three-car teams. That is the norm.”

This is an extension of a pre-existing relationship; Earnhardt has done commercials for Nationwide for years. Nationwide’s sponsorship of NASCAR’s secondary circuit is coming to a close, as they shift those resources to Earnhardt’s Sprint Cup team.

Earnhardt said having multiple sponsors makes him busier, but he likes the end result.

“I’m really enjoying having multiple people to work with each year,” Earnhardt said. “We all sort of learn from each other on how to market and how to reach as many people as we can. It’s been very effective. We’ve had a lot of success with it.”

All for All-Star

Joey Logano is a big fan of Sprint Cup’s All-Star race, set for May 17 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I think it’s the most fun race we run all year,” Logano said Friday. “You’re going for a million bucks. Second place doesn’t really pay nothing compared to what it pays to win the thing. Everybody knows that, and there’s nothing to lose.

“The whole week is fun because we get to qualify by making a pit stop and going 150 mph down pit road. That’s really cool. A little bit crazy, but really cool.

“It’s an honor to be in the All-Star race. It’s hard to get in, and fortunately, we’ve been able to win the races to get ourselves in. But once you’re in it, you want to go for the win. I finished second last year, and I don’t know if anybody even knows that.”

The spoils of victory

With two victories already this season, Logano has effectively locked in a spot in the Chase. Logano described what a luxury that is so early in the season.

“We’ve scheduled our tests completely different to make sure we’re prepared for the Chase and not prepared to get into the Chase,” Logano said. “The way we build our cars and the timing of when our new spec cars come out, all of that stuff is timed out to make sure we’re ready for the Chase.”

Bayne fastest

Trevor Bayne ran the fastest lap in the final session of Sprint Cup practice Friday, at 199.015 mph.

Earnhardt had the best sustained run of 10 consecutive laps, averaging 195.92 mph.

Nationwide pole to Hornish

Sam Hornish Jr., debuting in a seven-race deal for Joe Gibbs Racing, won the pole for Saturday’s Aaron’s 312.

Hornish was driving the car usually reserved for Kyle Busch. Two other JGR drivers, Elliott Sadler and Darrell Wallace Jr., qualified second and third.

This was the first knockout qualifying at a restrictor-plate track where drafting becomes imperative. There was a lot of gamesmanship, with cars starting to go out on the track, then stopping suddenly, trying not to be in the front of the pack and reduce the drafting advantage.

“People are going to play that waiting game, make sure they’re the last guy with the big toe,” Hornish said.

Sadler found the new format entertaining and said it will be even more so when Sprint Cup teams qualify Saturday.

“This is great for the fans – leave it hectic, leave it crazy,” Sadler said. “You’re going to see a lot of cat-and-mouse. You want to be in the back group. You never want to be in the lead group.”

Local flavor

Alabaman Grant Enfinger won the pole for Saturday morning’s ARCA race here. His top lap in a Ford was clocked at 183.649 mph.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

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