Nationwide picks up more races with Earnhardt Jr.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Nationwide will be the primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. starting next season under an expanded agreement with Hendrick Motorsports.

Nationwide had already signed on for 12 races for NASCAR's most popular driver, but picked up an additional nine races for next season to push its total to 21. The deal runs through the 2017 season and includes the Daytona 500.

''We're thrilled to be deepening our partnership with the Hendrick Motorsports team,'' said Matt Jauchius, chief marketing officer at Nationwide.

Nationwide is making its debut on Earnhardt's car this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

Earnhardt goes into Saturday night's race ranked second in the Sprint Cup standings with three wins this season, and the organization qualified all four of its cars for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship last weekend with Kasey Kahne's win at Atlanta.

''That Nationwide has already elected to grow the sponsorship sends a clear message about the opportunities they see and how well our teams are working together,'' team owner Rick Hendrick said.

''It's quickly become a strong relationship, and we're committed to building on that foundation and delivering results in every facet of the program.''

Hendrick Motorsports said Friday it is in discussions with the National Guard regarding its sponsorship of the No. 88 Chevrolet. The guard said last month it was ending its sponsorship of motorsports programs, but Hendrick says its contract runs through the 2015 season.

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