AP Sports Writer
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) - The Army National Guard is staying on as a sponsor of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup team.
Hendrick Motorsports said Friday it has extended its relationship with the National Guard through the 2013 season.
"I think that it's good for our team and good for the sport. We're excited that they're ready to be on board for the next season," Earnhardt said Friday at Michigan International Speedway, where he'll race Sunday. "I feel comfortable that we're set and we can move forward."
The contract was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012.
Last month, Congress rejected a bid by Reps. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn., to trim $72.3 million for sports sponsorships from a $608 billion defense bill for fiscal 2013. The measure had targeted the money the National Guard spends to sponsor Earnhardt, as well as IndyCar Series driver JR Hildebrand.
Kingston insisted that the sponsorship money was ineffective, attracting few recruits, but he and McCollum faced strong opposition from members of North Carolina's congressional delegation as well as lawmakers from Mississippi and Florida.
Sports leagues such as NASCAR, IndyCar, Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association sent a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders urging them to oppose the amendment.
Earnhardt didn't sound worried about the possibility the legislation could be revisited.
"I was real happy to have the Guard sign, and I expected them to continue to be part of the program. We've had a real positive relationship, and they've been real excited about what we've been able to do," he said. "We've got some great ideas coming up that we just started implementing this past week, where we're going to visit high schools and talk to kids and the parents and the principals and getting the Guard an opportunity to have more access at that level, so we're doing some good things.
"That was a lot of fun. That was the first time I've been to a high school to talk to a group like that, so I enjoyed that."
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