This will mark the 13th year Great Clips has used the Nationwide Series to market its brand, making it the series’ longest-running sponsor. Kahne has a long-standing relationship with Great Clips dating back to 2003 when the company served as primary sponsor for the up-and-coming driver for three seasons. The company also recently announced a sponsorship of Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports for three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2013.
The addition of Great Clips further establishes the JR Motorsports line-up for 2013, albeit with substantial changes from two months ago. First, it guarantees the company will field at least two entries in 28 of 33 Nationwide Series events. Smith is already committed to driving a full schedule, and Earnhardt Jr. will compete in select races in a third car.
Additionally, car numbers have been reassigned to align with Kahne’s branding in the Sprint Cup Series. Kahne and Sweet will split time in the No. 5 Chevrolet for 27 races. Smith will compete for a championship in the No. 7, and Earnhardt Jr. will carry his familiar No. 88 in a limited schedule that presently stands at four races. One of Earnhardt’s races will be with Great Clips branding to fill out the 28-race sponsorship package.
JR Motorsports General Manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller said the organization still isn’t committing the No. 5 team to a full-season slate but continues to work at securing sponsorship to fill out the remaining six races.
“The last three months have been critical for the direction of JR Motorsports and the commitment we’ve made, and this partnership with Great Clips is a major step in the right direction,” Earnhardt Miller said. “To sign a 28-race sponsor while adding Kasey Kahne and Brad Sweet to our line-up is quite extraordinary. Our goal is still to run two full-time teams, and this helps us greatly to achieve that.”
A teammate of Earnhardt’s at Hendrick Motorsports, Kahne is a 14-time Sprint Cup Series winner and seven-time Nationwide Series winner. He drove two races for JR Motorsports in 2011, finishing fourth at Kentucky Speedway and third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kahne rejoined the Great Clips family in 2009 and, over the last three years, has competed in select Nationwide Series races with the company as his primary sponsor. Great Clips has since expanded its relationship with the Enumclaw, Wash. native over the years by being heavily involved in the driver’s charity events and serving as a primary sponsor for Kasey Kahne Racing. Part of that expansion has also included the addition of Sweet to the Great Clips driver lineup with the Grass Valley, Calif. native carrying Great Clips branding in 18 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 19 Nationwide Series races over the last three years.
“Great Clips has been a long-time sponsor of mine for 10 years,” Kahne said. “They support everything that I do from the Kasey Kahne Foundation to my sprint car team and they continue to grow their program in NASCAR. We all look forward to joining JR Motorsports and continuing to build on the success that they have had.”
Like Kahne, Sweet is a product of United States Auto Club (USAC). He was hired by Kasey Kahne Racing in 2007 and has given KKR seven victories, including wins at the Belleville Midget Nationals, Knoxville Midget Nationals and Four Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway.
“I’m looking forward to this new opportunity with JR Motorsports and to continue representing Great Clips, both on and off the track,” said Sweet. “They have been extremely supportive of me over the last couple of years so taking this step with them is very special for me. As a young driver in this sport, having the chance to drive under the JR Motorsports banner is an amazing opportunity that I plan to make the most of. The 2013 season is‘gonna be great’ and I can’t wait to get it started.”
A race schedule for Kahne and Sweet in the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet is still to be determined. So, too, is Earnhardt Jr.’s complete Nationwide Series slate. To date his only announced races are Feb. 23 at Daytona International Speedway and March 9 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, both in the No. 88 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet.