CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Budweiser has teamed with Sprint Cup Series points leader Kevin Harvick as a primary sponsor for most of the 2011 season.

Budweiser said Tuesday its familiar red paint scheme will be on Harvick’s No. 29 Chevrolet for 20 races next season, as well as the non-points events at Daytona and the annual All-Star race. The beer company will be an associate sponsor on the remaining 16 Sprint Cup races.

“Budweiser’s involvement in NASCAR dates back more than three decades, and we’re excited to have as successful a driver as Kevin Harvick to usher in a new era for Budweiser,” said Mark Wright, vice president of media, sports & entertainment marketing for Anheuser-Busch.

Harvick and Richard Childress Racing lost current sponsor Shell-Pennzoil in April, and Harvick responded by snapping a 115-race winless streak that same week at Talladega.

Budweiser began looking for a new driver at the same time. Kasey Kahne is moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, and that agreement left the longtime NASCAR sponsor in search of its third driver in three seasons.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s move in 2008 to Hendrick ended Bud’s eight-year sponsorship of NASCAR’s most popular driver, and the company launched an expensive re-brand with Kahne.

Now it moves to Harvick, who along with RCR is on an impressive resurgence. His victory Sunday at Michigan International Speedway was his third this season, and after a rough 2009, RCR is a force both on the track and in the sponsorship race.

While other teams are searching for funding — Hendrick’s Jeff Gordon doesn’t have a primary sponsor lined up for next season — RCR last week announced Paul Menard would join the organization next season with sponsorship from his father’s home improvement company.

Now comes the Bud deal for Harvick, who is believed to have edged out two-time series champion Tony Stewart for the sponsorship.

“RCR prides itself on its heritage and authenticity,” said team owner Richard Childress. “So working with a brand like Budweiser, which has built their reputation on those same values, is a very special opportunity.”

Budweiser first sponsored a team at NASCAR’s top level in 1983 and has backed Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip, Geoff Bodine, Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader, Ricky Craven, Wally Dallenbach, Earnhardt and Kahne.

Ambrose heads to RPM

Marcos Ambrose has never lacked ambition.

The Australian NASCAR driver, who jokes he came to America with “stupidity and bravery,” believes he can challenge stars like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon if only he could get in a car that will keep up with his confidence.

He hopes he’s finally found it at Richard Petty Motorsports.

Ambrose signed a multiyear deal with RPM on Tuesday to drive the No. 9 Ford beginning in 2011, a signing that capped a tumultuous summer in which he opted to leave the No. 47 at JTG Daugherty Racing at the end of this season even though he knew that he may not find a safe landing in NASCAR’s top series.

“It’s been a wild month,” Ambrose said.

One that ended with the 33-year-old taking over the top car in RPM’s garage. He’ll replace Kasey Kahne, who will make a one-year cameo at Red Bull Racing next year before succeeding Mark Martin in the No. 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

Stanley Black & Decker will be the primary sponsor on the No. 9 next year after Budweiser, who sponsored Kahne, moved to the No. 29 driven by Kevin Harvick.

That’s fine by Ambrose, a road racing specialist who has spent the last four years trying to find a competitive ride at the Cup level. He’s winless in 70 Cup starts, though he does have three victories in the Nationwide Series, all on the tricky road course at Watkins Glen. Ambrose is currently 26th in Cup points this year heading into this weekend’s race at Bristol.

That won’t be nearly good enough next year in a car that has visited Victory Lane 11 times with Kahne behind the wheel. The pressure to succeed is fine by Ambrose, who opted to leave JTG Daugherty’s one-car operation because he felt a change was necessary after spending three years running toward the back of the pack.

“I clearly needed a place where I could grow,” Ambrose said.

He believes he’s found it at RPM, an outfit Ambrose feels has the resources and the experience to compete for the checkered flag every weekend.

“Who would have thought this little Tasmanian kid would one day drive for The King,” said Ambrose.

Ambrose and recently re-signed A.J. Allmendinger will headline a decidedly slimmed down RPM operation in 2011. Paul Menard is leaving to drive for Richard Childress Racing next year and Elliott Sadler’s status is uncertain. Stanley’s decision to move its sponsorship from Sadler’s No. 19 to the No. 9 means the 19 would need a major sponsor to step up.

Neither Sadler or RPM has given any indication that he will return in 2011.

Ambrose said he has a good relationship with Allmendinger, who wasn’t exactly best friends with Kahne after Allmendinger triggered a late crash at Pocono earlier this summer that ended with Kahne nearly flying over the wall and off the track.

“We’re both really hungry,” Ambrose said of Allmendinger.

The details are still being worked on. Ambrose isn’t sure who will serve as his crew chief next season, but he’s not worried about it. He believes he’s at a good team, one that can help him take the final step to relevance in the Cup series.

“I feel like I’ve got all the ingredients I need,” he said. “I wanted to eliminate any question marks about the stuff around me and people around me.”

Now he knows it’s all on him. That’s the way he’d prefer it.

“I feel like I can win four championships like Jimmie Johnson has done,” he said.

He’s spent his career building up to this point. He’s been saying for years he would be among the best if he found himself in the right situation.

Now he thinks he’s found it. Time to get going.

“It’s very hard to be sure (about your talent),” he said. “We’ll find out in 2011.”


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