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EARNHARDT SPONSORSHIP AT RISK?: Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Jack Kingston are pushing for an amendment that would stop government funding of sponsorship in NASCAR and other professional sports as part of the fiscal year 2013 Defense appropriations bill.

The amendment passed on a voice vote and will now go to the House floor as part of the $608 billion defense spending bill.

That obviously isn’t good news for Dale Earnhardt Jr. because the National Guard is one of his primary sponsors. Over the past five years, the National Guard paid $136 million to sponsor Earnhardt’s ride, including $26.5 million last year alone, McCollum said.

McCollum cited numbers Friday that claimed not one recruit has been generated from that sponsorship.

“The Pentagon’s NASCAR sponsorship program is an outrageous waste of taxpayer money and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta should terminate these sponsorship programs immediately,” McCollum said.

Earnhardt sees it a different way.

“I would encourage them to do more homework, get more facts, understand the situation a little more,” Earnhardt said. “I know just talking to the (National) Guard they can’t express to me enough about how much this program helps their recruiting. They are committed to the belief it has a profound effect on their recruiting and their ability to recruit.”

When asked if he’d invite Kingston to a race, Earnhardt laughed and said, “Yeah, just because he’s a Republican from Georgia he should have seen a NASCAR race by now.”

Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart has the U.S. Army as sponsor of Ryan Newman’s team at Stewart-Haas Racing, and in IndyCar, JR Hildebrand is sponsored by National Guard.

Stewart insisted there’s a value in sponsoring race teams to any company.

“All you have to do is turn around and look in all these garage stalls _ there are a lot of Fortune 500 companies that realize the value of this sport and realize the marketing value to it,” Stewart said.

“I think the U.S. Army and the National Guard have seen that value as well. They are not in the habit of spending money to spend money. I think they see the value in it, whether legislature understands that or not, they may not be familiar with all the things and how it benefits those programs.”

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BOWYER WINS BURNOUT CHALLENGE: It took five years, but Clint Bowyer finally won the fifth annual Burnout Challenge.

Fans voted for the top two burnouts before a panel of three celebrity judges voted Bowyer the winner. The judges were Miss Sprint Cup Jaclyn Roney; Colby Donaldson, a veteran of television’s “Survivor” and Kim Spradlin, 2012 winner of the “Survivor.”

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