Bud looking at another driver to sponsor next year

This Bud's no longer for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sources said Budweiser officials will announce Friday morning that the sponsor will not follow NASCAR's most popular driver from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season.

It is not known whether Earnhardt will continue his personal services contract with the company, which runs through next season.

It's expected that PepsiCo Inc., possibly with the Mountain Dew brand or a combination of Pepsi products, will sponsor Earnhardt next season at Hendrick.

And Anheuser-Busch is negotiating with Evernham Motorsports to possibly move the Bud sponsorship to Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Dodge next season.

Budweiser officials also have contacted officials at Lowe's Motor Speedway about the possibility of holding a news conference at the Lowe's Speedway Club next week if a new team sponsorship agreement is reached.

An Evernham Motorsports official said Tuesday that no agreement has been reached with Budweiser and that the Evernham marketing department was talking to several other companies about potential sponsorships for 2008.

Team owner Ray Evernham has an agreement with Dodge, through the Dodge Dealers, to sponsor both Kahne's car and the No. 19 Dodge of
Elliott Sadler through 2010.

The Dodge dealers would have to sign off on any deal to allow Budweiser to move to Kahne's car.

One source close to the negotiations told ESPN.com that it's still possible Budweiser could stay at Dale Earnhardt Inc., depending on whom DEI signs to replace Earnhardt. The sponsorship agreement with DEI is set to expire at the end of the 2008 season.

Budweiser has sponsored Earnhardt and the No. 8 Chevrolet at DEI since the racer's rookie season of 2000.

But Budweiser officials now have targeted four other drivers they would consider sponsoring next season, including Kahne. The other three drivers are not known.

Pepsi has been an associate sponsor at Hendrick Motorsports for
Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevy, and sometimes appears on the hood, including at the Pepsi 400 on Saturday night at Daytona.

International Speedway Corp. is ending its association with Pepsi after signing a new deal with Coca-Cola this week.

So Pepsi officials want to increase their exposure by sponsoring Earnhardt, but it could be a combination of its soft drink and sports drink brands -- such as Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Mug Root Beer and Gatorade -- that will appear on the car.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.
David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.