Junie Donlavey Racing will not run the familiar Hills Bros Coffee colours on the No.90 Ford Taurus in next year's NASCAR Winston Cup Series in a move that could also see current driver Hut Stricklin and crew chief Philippe Lopez depart the team next season.

After nearly three full seasons, Sara Lee Coffee & Team Consumer Brands announced on Friday that Hills Bros coffee will not return as the primary sponsor of the No. 90 Donlavey Racing NASCAR Winston Cup Series team in 2002.

"Our experience with Donlavey Racing during the past two seasons has been every bit as exciting as we thought it would be," said Henk de Back, President and CEO of Hills Bros Coffee, "Junie Donlavey is every bit the NASCAR statesman and gentleman that everyone in the sport knows him to be. We are honoured to have had the chance to work with him and we wish his team continued success."

The firm will continue to sponsor the No.90 Ford for the remainder of 2001 and de Back gave a clear hint that the firm would still be part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series next season, in a different team and possibly still partnering Stricklin.

"Hills Bros Coffee is committed to participating in the Winston Cup Series and to being an active sponsor in NASCAR," added de Back. "To that end, Sara Lee Coffee & Tea Consumer Brands has announced its intention to continue racing with Philippe Lopez, NASCAR Director for Hills Bros Coffee racing team, and Hut Stricklin, team driver."

Currently, Sara Lee Coffee & Tea Consumer Brands Board of Management is actively researching for top performing racing team sponsorship options and will make its decision in early November. Continued success is expected for the remainder of the season.

The news of Hills Bros' departure comes as a bitter blow to Donlavey Racing who is already one of the poorer teams on pit road despite their rich history. There are already a number of NWC teams searching for a new primary sponsor next season but with the current uncertain economic climate in the US it may be difficult for all but the biggest Winston Cup teams to persuade sponsors to begin ploughing money into the sport.

The move comes after another mixed season for Donlavey and his loyal team who have missed no less than eight races thus far in 2001. Stricklin gave the team their best result in several years with an emotional sixth place at Michigan earlier this year but with no other top ten finishes so far this year, he sits only 40th in the current points table, a massive 300 points behind 39th placed Kevin Lepage.