Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 2012 Daytona 500 Week To Feature 'Dew Crew' Return

Back in the day, the crewmen who serviced Darrell Waltrip's Mountain Dew-sponsored No. 11 car were known as the "Dew Crew."

The pit crew wore shirts with the moniker on the back and had bright green pants, making them hard to miss during the 1981 and 1982 NASCAR seasons.

Now, after a lengthy hiatus, the "Dew Crew" is returning just in time for the Daytona 500. But this time, it has a much different meaning.

Pepsi will officially re-launch the Dew Crew on Thursday to mark its Diet Mountain Dew sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team this season. The new Dew Crew extends well beyond the pit crew, though, to Earnhardt Jr.'s fans themselves.

"They want the fans to form a 'Dew Crew,' as if they're fans of this car," Earnhardt Jr. said. "So the Dew Crew is the fan base. ... It's the fans that are following that car, and the fans of Diet Mountain Dew and regular Mountain Dew, I suppose."

The Dew Crew will be a virtual online hub for Earnhardt Jr. fans – it will live on Facebook and have its own URL, dewcrew.com (the site isn't active yet) – where they can interact with each other and make decisions that will be reflected at the track.

What kind of decisions? PepsiCo's Christie Shan said fans would be able to vote on things like paint schemes or the design of Earnhardt Jr.'s firesuit.

"We want the fans to be recognized," she said.

Shan said the company's internal numbers show Earnhardt Jr. has more than 30 million fans, but only about one million of those are active in social media. Naturally, PepsiCo sees a big opportunity to expand that platform.

To entice fans to become part of the Dew Crew, Shan said Diet Mountain Dew is giving away Earnhardt Jr.'s firesuit from Sunday's Daytona 500.

Even if he wins?

"Yeah, we'll still give it away," she said. "We hope he does win."

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