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Army pulling out of NASCAR at end of season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The U.S. Army will not return to Stewart-Haas Racing next season, effectively ending its sponsorship in NASCAR altogether after a decade.

SHR said Tuesday it is pursuing a new sponsor.

"The U.S. Army has been a great partner of Stewart-Haas Racing since the team's inception," said Brett Frood, executive vice president of SHR. "It has been a mutually beneficial relationship, with the U.S. Army introducing training regimens that improved our pit crews while instilling the mental, physical and emotional strength of the U.S. Army Soldier in all of us."

The Army has been in NASCAR for 10 seasons, and at one point was a primary sponsor. It moved to SHR to sponsor Ryan Newman in 2009 when the team was formed.

"The sport, our drivers and the passionate NASCAR fans embraced the Army's participation and created a tremendous opportunity for Americans to learn more about the profession of the Army Strong Soldier," Army marketer John Myers said in a statement.

The decision to leave NASCAR comes as Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Rep. Jackson Kingston of Georgia are pushing an amendment that would prohibit military sponsorship of sports.

McCollum lost a House vote a year ago to end military sponsorships of NASCAR, professional wrestling and fishing, but is trying again to have the approximately $80 million in sponsorship cut from the defense budget.

McCollum applauded the Army's decision to pull out of NASCAR.

"The Army made the right move to eliminate a wasteful program and protect taxpayer dollars - which has been my goal all along," she said. "Congress is facing a very difficult budget environment, and I want taxpayer dollars protected, even at the Pentagon.

"I will continue to work to save taxpayer dollars by ending all of the Pentagon's multi-million dollar professional sports sponsorships of motor racing, bass fishing and ultimate fighting."

It's not clear how the Army's decision will effect SHR, which currently fields two full-time teams - one for three-time NASCAR champion and team co-owner Tony Stewart, and one for Newman. The plan was to expand to three teams next season with Danica Patrick, who is running 10 Sprint Cup Series races this year for SHR.

Although Stewart has said he wants to bring Newman back next year, the driver is in the final year of his contract and the sponsorship loss will likely slow contract extension talks.

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