Pepsi to use Dew brand for Junior's car

JOLIET, Ill. -- PepsiCo is expected to announce this week it will use Diet Mountain Dew instead of Amp Energy as the primary sponsor on Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car for 16 races next season.

The brand swap was reported Monday by Sports Business Journal.

Amp has been Earnhardt's primary sponsor since he signed with Hendrick Motorsports four years ago. Pepsi has the rights to 20 races as sponsor, and the brand shift is expected to relegate Amp to an associate sponsor for 16 races. Amp would be the primary on four races.

Pepsi has one year remaining on its sponsorship contract with Earnhardt, who originally signed a five-year contract to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet. Earlier this month, the team announced a five-year extension that keeps Earnhardt at HMS at least through 2017.

The sponsor shift should lead to a redesigned paint scheme that will debut at the 2012 season-opening Daytona 500.

Earnhardt, meanwhile, is back in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field this season after a two-year absence. He began Monday's race as the 10th seed in the 12-driver field.

He finished third at Chicago, his best finish since he was second at Kansas 14 races ago, and now heads to Round 2 of the Chase ranked fifth in points.

Although Earnhardt entered the Chase in a drought -- he had just one top-10 finish in the previous 13 races -- he likes his chances.

"I felt like we would do well in The Chase," he said. "These are good tracks for me. And the tracks where I ran poorly just aren't. If you look at my track record, I don't run good at those tracks. I felt we would rebound and kind of return to the form we started at the beginning of the year."