Money woes ease in NASCAR, sponsors seek bargains

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A few years ago, the chance for a
company to associate itself with NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr.
might have triggered a stampede.

As of this week, however, the Earnhardt family's JR Motorsports
team has sponsorship contracts in hand for only 12 of 35 races for
its No. 88 car in the Nationwide series.

Economic woes haven't completely chased corporate America away
from NASCAR. With the season revving up this week at Daytona
International Speedway, there are signs that interest is picking
back up.

But in sharp contrast to the NASCAR boom of the mid-2000s,
companies are spending more carefully and demanding more for their
money. NASCAR chief marketing officer Steve Phelps is optimistic
about 2010, forecasting increased spending on advertising and
corporate hospitality.