Earnhardt Signs Deal With Sony

OAKVILLE, Calif. (AP) -- From the time his sister lent him money to buy his first computer, Dale Earnardt Jr. has been wowed by technology. Now, NASCAR's most popular driver has an endorsement deal with Sony Electronics.

``I'm a big electronics fan. I'm a big computer guy. It's products I can dig,'' Earnhardt said Thursday at a winery in the heart of California's Napa Valley, where he announced the Sony deal. He will be competing on Sunday in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in nearby Sonoma.

His deal with Sony is a personal services contract that gives the company use of his name, likeness and voice for promotions. He also has a similar deal with Budweiser that will continue next year, regardless of what's on his car.

Meanwhile, Junior still isn't saying what role longtime sponsor Budweiser will have with him when he joins Hendrick Motorsports next season.

Budweiser has been Earnhardt's primary sponsor since 1999, and the beer manufacturer wants to continue its relationship with him at Hendrick. But car owner Rick Hendrick isn't actively pursuing new sponsors, and it's possible Bud could get shut out.

Earnhardt also said a possible endorsement deal with sporting goods manufacturer Adidas was ``on the wish list.''

Earnhardt's move to Hendrick is expected to clean up his sometimes scruffy image to match that of his teammates, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, although he appeared at Thursday's news conference in a scraggy beard, an untucked dress shirt and worn jeans -- with Puma athletic shoes.

Earnhardt said he took to computers early on, but that his father never believed the Internet would be a success.

``That's one place he was wrong and I was right. I took a lot of typing classes in high school,'' he said.

Neither Earnhardt nor Stuart Redsun, Sony's vice president of corporate marketing, would discuss the financial arrangement or the length of the deal.

``We're very happy at Sony to have Dale Junior involved for some time,'' Redsun said.

Earnhardt said he got a new digital camera out of the deal.

``The cash is great, but the product is good, too,'' he said.

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