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Bass Pro Shops Signs With Tony Stewart For 2013; Future With Jamie McMurray Unclear

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A day after their new partnership was unveiled in Missouri, Tony Stewart and Bass Pro owner Johnny Morris made the union official and announced an 18-race sponsorship deal for 2013 in a press conference at Talladega Superspeedway.

Morris and Stewart have an existing friendship which developed into a business partnership – a rarity among top-level sponsors in NASCAR. Bass Pro has sponsored some of Stewart's Sprint car efforts in the past, but 2013 will take their relationship to a far greater level.

"We're excited," Morris said. "It's like a dream coming true."

Bass Pro Shops will replace Office Depot at Stewart-Haas Racing, though not for as many races (18 races instead of 22). Combined with Mobil 1's 11-race sponsorship of Stewart's No. 14 car, the driver/team owner still has nine unsponsored races for next season.

Though Stewart still needs more funding, securing the Bass Pro deal is big for the defending champion after Office Depot's decision to pull out of the sport left a gaping hole in the sponsorship lineup.

One team's gain, though, is another's loss.

Morris said Bass Pro Shops will not continue at the same level with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and driver Jamie McMurray in 2013, which means EGR now must find funding to replace the chief sponsor of its No. 1 car. Morris said his company's agreement was ending with EGR and he couldn't pass up a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to pair with Stewart.

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

The Bass Pro relationship with EGR may not be over, though. EGR president Steve Lauletta said Friday the company is in talks to have Bass Pro remain as a primary sponsor, just in a much more limited capacity.

"I anticipate you'll see the Bass Pro Shops logo on the hood of our car for a few races next year," Lauletta said.

McDonald's and existing sponsors such as Liftmaster will have the chance to increase their involvement, Lauletta said, an opportunity which wasn't available before. EGR's teams have been fully sponsored for the last three seasons.

In addition, Lauletta said there could be new sponsors who link up with EGR.

"There's a number of new companies we've been talking to who have shown interest in doing primary races and we haven't had the ability to deliver on those – and now we will," Lauletta said. "I believe we'll get a few of those over the goal line."