The National Guard is holding firm to ending its racing sponsorships at the end of the 2014 season, despite a challenge from an impacted team.
Hendrick Motorsports (HMS), the team for NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, argues the National Guard is contractually obligated to provide another $32 million for the 2015 season. That's the same funding level HMS received this year.
13 Investigates told you about the Guard's decision to pull out of NASCAR and IndyCar amid allegations of wasteful spending by members of Congress. The Guard formally announced the end of the sponsorships after revealing it could not justify spending the money under growing financial constraints.
In a statement released Friday morning, the Guard said
"We are aware of the claim from HMS Holdings regarding National Guard sponsorship (for) the 2015 NASCAR season. As previously announced, our sports marketing contract will come to end with the conclusion of the 2014 racing season. Any future contract requirements will be conducted in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation."
NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr was having the summer of racing dreams.
A Sprint Cup sweep at Pocono.
Days earlier, he was playing up his multi-million dollar sponsorship with the National Guard at Camp Atterbury.
"The commitment to join the military is a lifelong choice," said Ernhardt after spending time with the Guardsmen and women.
But even then, the highest ranks at the National Guard were prepping to lower their own boom.
The Guard is pulling out of sponsorships next season for both NASCAR and IndyCar, amid allegations of wasteful spending by members of Congress.
"I mean, the facts speak for themselves. The data is very clear. You're not getting recruits off NASCAR," said Sen. Clair McCaskill (D) Missouri.
Major General Judd Lyons, the Acting Director at the Guard, promised a top-down review.
"In March we initiated surveys at all 65 of our military entrance processing stations throughout the country to find out what influenced new Army recruits to join the National Guard," he explained.
But the former national director who started the IndyCar sponsorship and increased NASCAR's deal, argued the program was never set up to measure individual recruiting numbers.
Lt. General Clyde Vaughn sat down with 13 Investigates in Washington, DC for an exclusive interview.
"I joined the military because I like NASCAR? Give me a break. You know, how many are going to say that?" said General Vaughn.
In the end, the acting director says he cannot justify spending $32 million for NASCAR and another $12 million for IndyCar under growing financial constraints.
In a statement to 13 Investigates, Sen. Claire McCaskill said:
"I'm a NASCAR fan, and I love the National Guard. But spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on a recruitment program that signed up zero recruits, and that has been abandoned by other service branches as ineffective, just makes no sense."
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Team represented by Bobby Rahal said:
"This is obviously very disappointing news...given the significant incremental brand exposure we have worked to produce for the National Guard in our first season together."
Back at Dale Earnhardt's camp, a different take. Team owners contend the government is still on the hook for the millions promised. Hendrick Motorsports said:
"Our team has a contract in place to continue the National Guard program at its current level in 2015. We have not been approached by the Guard about potential changes and plan to honor our current agreement."
A National Guard spokesman says top agency officials are talking with Hendrick Motorsports about the decision.
The former director defends the spending for NASCAR and IndyCar under his watch, but concedes with minimal recruitment needs, it may not be the time to invest this kind of money now.?