Coors Light to be official beer of NASCAR; Bud Shootout's future up in air

9/25/2007 - NASCAR

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The future of the Budweiser Shootout after the 2008 season has yet to be determined with Tuesday's announcement that Coors Light will be the new official beer of NASCAR.

The Shootout, a season-opening, non-points event between the previous year's pole winners and past champions at Daytona International Speedway, will be run in 2008 under the Budweiser name.

After that it will be up to International Speedway Corporation whether to continue the race with Coors Light or another sponsor.

"Our agreement does not include the Shootout," said Andrew
Giangola, the director of business communications for NASCAR. "That is a separate entitlement with ISC."

ISC spokesperson Lenny Santiago doesn't expect the Shootout to go away, but he said it's too early to determine sponsorship.

Although Budweiser is the official beer of Daytona International Speedway, Santiago did not rule out an agreement for Coors Light to sponsor the race.

"This sport is laden with sponsors in the same category," he said. "Pepsi has a sponsorship with Jeff Gordon running in the Coca-Cola 600. There's always conflicts and a way to work around that. At this point we just have to see where this lead.

"The race has become a staple of the season and I would suspect that race would go on, but it's too early to speculate on what might happen."

NASCAR's five-year, $20 million deal with Coors Brewing company gives Coors Light exclusive rights to NASCAR logos in advertising, packaging and promotions, as well as the right to brand the Pole Award.

Coors Light also plans to build distributor and consumer promotions giving fans exclusive access to one-of-a-kind NASCAR experiences.

"The company has a proven track record as a strong brand marketer, and we're looking forward to a mutually beneficial partnership that excites our fans and helps bring NASCAR to new levels of popularity," Steve Phelps, NASCAR's chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

Coors Light recently announced it would not return as the sponsor of the No. 40 Dodge driven by David Stremme. With no sponsor in hand, team owner Chip Ganassi opted not to pick up the option on Stremme's contract for 2008.

Ganassi is expected to announce soon that 2007 IRL champion Dario Franchitti will join his organization and drive a Cup car next season.

Budweiser has been NASCAR's official beer since 1998. It has been a fixture on the hood of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car since he began a part-time Cup schedule in 1999 at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Earnhardt announced earlier in the year that he is leaving DEI and the Anheuser-Busch company after this season.

Budweiser announced last week a multi-year deal to sponsor the No. 9 car of Kasey Kahne at Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

NASCAR continues to search for a sponsor for its second-tier series, which has been sponsored by the Anheuser-Busch product Busch since 1984.

David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.