CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon will be sponsored next season by an anti-hunger campaign coordinated through the AARP Foundation.
The multiyear deal will be announced Wednesday by Hendrick Motorsports. A person familiar with Hendrick's sponsorship agreement confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official announcement had not been made.
The deal first was reported Monday by The Charlotte Observer.
The campaign will be the first cause-related sponsorship of its kind in NASCAR, which has struggled to attract new business since the economic downturn began late in 2008. Sponsorship dollars have been dramatically reduced, and many teams, Hendrick included, had to let go employees while adjusting to smaller budgets.
Lack of funding put some teams out of business, and led to mergers between several top-tier organizations. Others had to explore nontraditional NASCAR sponsors as potential revenue sources.
Everyone has been affected, including Gordon and two-time champion Tony Stewart, two of the sport's biggest stars.
Stewart earlier this month finally announced an 11-race deal with ExxonMobil Corp., and acknowledged the difficulty in securing sponsorship in today's market had stretched to NASCAR's elite.
``It's tough, you realize there's a lot of teams competing for the same dollars,'' he said. ``The competition off the track is just as tough as the competition on the track. There are still companies that are going to be in the sport, and there are still companies who want to be associated with marquee guys.
``I can promise you that (Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports) are not sitting over there without an offer on the table.''
Hendrick Motorsports is filling the void created when DuPont, which has sponsored Gordon his entire career, decided to scale back its commitment. The company will still play a major role with Gordon, and be the primary sponsor on all but two of the races that the new sponsor has not claimed.
PepsiCo, which also has a long relationship with Gordon, will continue sponsoring the driver. The company has traditionally been the primary sponsor for two races a year.
The new deal on the anti-hunger campaign fills the No. 24 Chevrolet's primary sponsorship needs.

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