Tony Stewart hooks Bass Pro Shops as primary sponsor

Driver Tony Stewart poses next to the #14 Bass Pro Shops Toyota after a press conference for Stewart-Haas Racing announcing Bass Pro Shops will sponsor Tony Stewart’s #14 car for 18 races in 2013, including the season-opening Daytona 500, outside of the media center at Talladega Superspeedway on October 5, 2012 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Stewart-Haas Racing)

TALLADEGA, Ala. — In what he described as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bass Pro Shops founder announced Friday at Talladega Superspeedway that the hunting and fishing retailer will serve as primary sponsor next year for 18 races on Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

Bass Pro’s move from the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray to Stewart-Haas fills a void left by the departure of Office Depot from Stewart’s car. Mobil 1 will be on the hood of Stewart’s car for 11 races next year, with nine races still unsubscribed.

Longtime friends Stewart and Morris began discussions when Stewart learned of Office Depot’s possible departure.

“I didn’t go to Johnny trying to steal a sponsor from somebody,” Stewart said. “We just let it be known to him that, if there ever was an opportunity, we had an opportunity available on our side, and if he ever decided that he was wanting to make a change, we wanted him to know that we were available.”

It didn’t take Morris long to make up his mind.

“It didn’t take us too long to shake hands,” Morris added. “It’s something that we’ve had — Tony said a shared dream — and I really feel that’s the case. It’s something that we had, a dream, maybe, to do . . .

“Tony wakes up every day with a passion to be the best race driver in the world that’s ever been, and I think that’s contagious to people in our company who also have a lot of pride.”

Neither Stewart nor Morris would reveal the specific terms of the sponsorship agreement.

“We just horse trade a little bit at a time,” Morris quipped. “We might know how long it is, but we don’t want all of our bankers to know just yet.”

Morris said Bass Pro Shows would continue its relationships with Richard Childress Racing, which currently includes sponsorship of Childress grandsons — Austin Dillon in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Ty Dillon in the Camping World Truck Series.

Morris also intimated that McMurray might still figure in the company’s plans but did not elaborate.

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