Crown Royal, the Canadian whisky brand owned by global drinks company Diageo, has announced that it is to reduce its sponsorship involvement in NASCAR and is to withdraw altogether from sponsoring the #17 Roush Fenway Racing car currently driven by Matt Kenseth.
However, the company will continue to sponsor the Crown Royal 'Your Name Here' initiative that allows a NASCAR fan from a military service background the opportunity to have their name as the title sponsor of the April NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway.
"In evaluation of our NASCAR programming and after much consideration, we have made the decision to make a strategic shift to focus our resources," the company said in a press release. "In shifting our strategy, we will end our sponsorships with Roush Fenway Racing and NASCAR upon the conclusion of the 2011 season.
"We have developed strong relationships with the people at both organizations – they have not only been fantastic business partners, but have also become our friends. We thank them for working with us throughout the years to showcase the importance of our social responsibility initiatives.
"We look forward to a strong finish to the 2011 season and like the many fans we've gained along the way, we'll never stop rooting for the #17 car on its way to Victory Lane."
Crown Royal has been the main sponsor of Matt Kenseth's car since the start of the 2010 season, providing the funding for 18 of Kenseth's 36 annual Sprint Cup entries. Its parent company Diageo entered NASCAR after the ban on alcohol sponsorship was ended late in 2004, and has been associated with former Roush drivers Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray.
Losing Crown Royal is a huge blow to the team, as Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark conceded in a company statement following the announcement. "We are obviously disappointed with the news ... They have been a first-class partner all the way around.
"It's unfortunate that they will not be able to continue to be a part of our organisation," he said, before going on to add that the search for a replacement sponsor was already underway. "The #17 is an attractive, championship-winning program with a storied history and Matt Kenseth an elite driver. We have already opened the door for discussions and are currently in the process of speaking with companies interested in taking over the program for next season and beyond."
The company had already lined up clothing brand Affliction as sponsors for two of the non-Crown Royal events coming up - Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona and the mid-July Lenox Industrial Tools 301 race at Loudon, New Hampshire.