Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Nationwide Won’t Return to Hendrick Motorsports After 2019

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

After five-full seasons with Hendrick Motorsports, Nationwide Insurance won’t return as a primary sponsor at the end of the 2019 season.

Nationwide is the current sponsor for Alex Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 20 out of the 36 races as part of their two-year agreement signed last August.

The insurance company released a statement Wednesday about their decision, which came down to a marketing decision that would benefit them more as a business entity.

“As Nationwide’s business needs evolve, we are adjusting our marketing resources to ensure that we are aligning to those new business priorities.

“With that in mind, we have informed Hendrick Motorsports of our decision to step away from our sponsorship of the 88 team at the end of the year. We have not made this decision lightly, given our 20-plus year involvement in NASCAR and our deep appreciation for Rick Hendrick, Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, and the millions of NASCAR fans we have engaged with over the years.”

Rather than continuing with both driver and team, they’ll still continue being a host partner at select NASCAR races. More importantly, continue their relationship with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who Nationwide sponsored him at Richmond in September 2014 before jumping aboard as his main sponsor from 2015 up to his series retirement in 2017.

Owner Rick Hendrick responded with a statement of his own regarding losing the No. 88 team’s core sponsor.

“We understand the changing dynamics of business, and we’re grateful to the entire team at Nationwide for their wonderful partnership over the past five years,” said Hendrick. “Whether it’s been winning races, competing in the NASCAR playoffs or our recent on-track performance, we have accomplished so much together.

“Off the track, we have been just as successful, from collaborating on national advertising campaigns to supporting the important mission of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It has been a pleasure to work with all of their people and to help drive Nationwide’s business forward.”

This comes at the cusp of Bowman’s finest season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, with three runner-up finishes (all consecutive) and sits 10th in the standings after 15 races. Hendrick added that Bowman’s fate with the team won’t be affected and expects to be a key player of the future of his four-car stable.

“Alex (Bowman) is having a breakout season and showing the world just how talented he is. He’s signed through next year (2020) and will be a big part of our future. The momentum we’re building as a sport is due in large part to NASCAR’s leadership and a unique combination of emerging personalities like Alex, established stars and the exciting shows our racing is putting on. There’s tremendous confidence in the product we have to offer our fans and partners.”

Bowman, who ran 10 races in Dale Jr.’s car in 2016, owes a lot to the sponsorship for revitalizing his NASCAR career after it appeared it was lost due to two miserable seasons at BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing.

“I owe a lot to Nationwide. They wanted me as their driver and have supported me from the beginning, which I can’t thank them enough for,” said Bowman. “I’m proud to represent them and have a lot of appreciation for all the awesome people I’ve met and worked with. I couldn’t be more positive about my No. 88 team and what the future holds for us this year and beyond. I know we’re just scratching the surface, and I’m pumped for what’s ahead. We appreciate the role Nationwide has played in our success.”

In 96 starts representing Hendrick Motorsports, Nationwide has been the winning primary sponsor three times, all coming from Dale Jr. in 2015, which turned out to be his final three Cup wins. Bowman has scored two poles with Nationwide, taking place at Phoenix in November 2016 and the 60th Daytona 500 last year.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.