Budweiser to Earnhardt: This Bud's Not for You

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - When Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaves his late father's team to drive for Hendrick Motorsports next season, longtime corporate sponsor Budweiser won't be going with him.

The Hendrick team announced on Friday that Budweiser would not continue as the sponsor of Earnhardt's car next season because of Hendrick's "long-term contractual commitments to existing sponsors."

Earnhardt announced in June that he would leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. to join the Hendrick team next season, but Hendrick has not yet made it clear what number car Earnhardt will drive or who his sponsor will be.

Kyle Busch, who is leaving the Hendrick team at the end of the season to make room for Earnhardt, currently drives a No. 5 car with sponsorship from Kellogg's and several other companies.

"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."

The team has not announced a timetable for its sponsorship announcements.

Budweiser will continue as a sponsor in NASCAR.

"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 called it a "privilege" to drive the Budweiser car.

"Although Budweiser and I will be unable to continue our partnership beyond this season, I remain committed to driving for Bud the rest of this year," Earnhardt said. "I'm a race car driver. All I can do is drive as hard as I can for my fans and sponsorship partners and give my best effort each weekend."