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Budweiser and Earnhardt split

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CONCORD, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have a new sponsor in 2008.

Hendrick Motorsports announced Friday that long-term contractual commitments to the team's current sponsors will preclude Budweiser as primary sponsor of Earnhardt's car when he joins Hendrick next season.

"We have agreements in place with sponsors for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, which prevent us from having a relationship with Budweiser," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement. "Honoring our commitments is important to us. The trade-off is missing an opportunity to bring Budweiser, a marquee brand synonymous with NASCAR and its fans, into the fold."

After deciding to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by his late father, Junior signed to race for Hendrick. But primary sponsorship of his team remains undecided.

The Hendrick announcement said no timetable has been established for a decision on the car's primary sponsor.

Earnhardt has a personal services contract with Budweiser that runs through 2008, but the beer company is reportedly talking with other teams about sponsorship.

"Budweiser has sponsored Dale Jr. for nearly a decade, and we wish him the very best," said Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch Inc. "Budweiser will remain an active sponsor of NASCAR, and we look forward to building upon the legacy of the iconic Budweiser red car in 2008 and beyond."

Earnhardt said he is grateful for the association with Budweiser through the years.

"I'm a race car driver," he said. "All I can do is drive as hard as I can for my fans and sponsorship partners and give my best effort each weekend."

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