Delta Apparel, a leading activewear and headwear manufacturer, has agreed to a partnership with JR Motorsports to promote the Realtree Outfitters licensed brand, which will receive primary placement on the No. 88 Chevrolet for five NASCAR Nationwide Series events this year, general manager Kelley Earnhardt announced today.
Realtree, the camouflage brand made famous by its long-running outdoor-themed television programming, recently signed Delta Apparel to an exclusive apparel and headwear licensing deal with its Realtree Outfitters brand.
One of the five races. the Aug. 20 event at Bristol Motor Speedway, will feature team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel of the No. 88 Realtree Outfitters Chevrolet.
Two other events -- the June 26th race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Sept. 25th race at Dover International Raceway -- will introduce Elliott Sadler as driver of the No. 88 Realtree Outfitters Chevy. Sadler has signed a 10-race driving agreement with JR Motorsports to drive the No. 88 car.
"I think this partnership with Delta Apparel and Realtree Outfitters is something we're announcing now, but it started a long time ago just on mutual friendship," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Realtree has been in the sport a long time, because there is a common interest in racing and hunting. NASCAR fans wear Realtree camo."
The complete schedule for Delta Apparel/Realtree Outfitters-sponsored races includes New Hampshire Motor Speedway (June 26), Iowa Speedway (July 31), Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 20), Dover International Speedway (Sept. 25), and Gateway International Raceway (Oct. 23). Drivers for Iowa and Gateway are still to be determined.
"Our licensing agreement with Realtree has opened significant new markets for our lifestyle T-shirts, caps, and other apparel items in both the outdoor and NASCAR market places in a very short timeframe," said Robert W. Humphreys, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Delta Apparel, Inc. "This partnership is really true to all of the brands involved."
Bill Jordan, the popular outdoorsman and president of Realtree, said, "Both Dale Jr. and Elliot truly enjoy the outdoors, and both have spent time hunting and filming with us over the years. We could not be more pleased to have these two drivers behind the wheel of the Realtree Outfitters Chevrolet.
"The partnership among Delta Apparel, Realtree Outfitters and JR Motorsports is the foundation of a multi-media campaign to promote the Realtree Outfitters brand, and the tie-ins among all of these companies and Chevrolet makes this the perfect promotion -- touching on families, friendships, NASCAR and the outdoors."
Both Earnhardt Jr. and Sadler are avid outdoorsmen and have hunted multiple times with Jordan. Much of Realtree's notoriety comes through its television programming on ESPN2, Outdoor Channel and other networks. Earnhardt Jr. and Sadler have been featured on Realtree Outdoors in each of the past two seasons.
"Our deal with Realtree Outfitters is one of those partnerships that won't be too difficult getting our fans and team members to rally around," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Our shop is loaded with avid hunters, starting with (Crew Chief) Tony Eury Jr. He's a diehard, and he's been a big supporter of Realtree for a long time.
"My uncles, the Gee boys, Robert Jr. and Jimmy, are the best body-hangers in the business, but before they agreed to come to JR Motorsports, they made me promise to give them the entire month of November off so they can hunt every year. It was the only way I could get them to come to JR Motorsports, so I agreed. I've never heard of a contract quite like it."
Sadler's debut for JR Motorsports at New Hampshire will kick off a 10-race schedule for the Emporia, Va., native in the team's flagship No. 88. His two races for Realtree Outfitters will be met with eight more for sponsor Grand Touring Vodka. Those tracks include O'Reilly Raceway Park (July 24), Michigan (Aug. 14), Richmond (Sept. 10), Kansas (Oct. 2), Auto Club Speedway (Oct. 9), Texas (Nov. 6), Phoenix (Nov. 13), and Homestead-Miami (Nov. 20).
"I am grateful to Dale Jr. and Kelley for this opportunity," Sadler said. "Dale Jr. and I have been friends since our days of racing late models, so it's a great opportunity for us to partner together in the Nationwide Series.
"Everyone knows that I hunt every single day during the off-season. So, this was like a dream come true for me to have a chance to represent Realtree Outfitters at my inaugural race with JR Motorsports. Last year on a Realtree Outdoors hunt I harvested a monster bull elk, thanks to Bill Jordan. We're mixing together my two biggest passions in life: racing and the outdoors. I'm going to go out and give it everything I have to put this No. 88 in victory lane for these 10 races."
Sadler is a five-time winner in the Nationwide Series and three-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series. His first full season in the Nationwide Series featured three victories (Nazareth, Myrtle Beach, and Gateway) and four pole awards. He responded a season later with two more wins (Bristol and Rockingham) and one pole.
"Elliott is a really good buddy of mine, and I'm happy that he has agreed to race our cars on a limited basis this year," said Earnhardt Jr. "By now everybody knows our situation. We are looking for the next full-time replacement for the No. 88, but in the meantime we've called upon some proven racers to keep it up front, capture points, and contend for wins.
"Jamie McMurray took on a handful of races and has done an incredible job. It's been a lot of fun watching him race, and Pops (Tony Eury Sr.) has enjoyed working with him. I think Elliott will do just as well. He's a great race car driver."
Earnhardt Jr.'s turn behind the wheel of the No. 88 Realtree Outfitters Chevrolet at Bristol will be his third appearance in the Nationwide Series this season. He competed in the season-opening event at Daytona International Raceway, and will return to the track in July to drive the No. 3 Wrangler Chevy. Earnhardt Jr. is a two-time series champion and winner of 22 races.