Sports One of the best NASCAR drivers on the circuit just got dropped by his sponsor

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Kyle Larson is set to remain with Chip Ganassi Racing, but this will be his last season driving the Target car.

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(Jerry Markland/Getty)
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Kyle Larson is having an outstanding year in NASCAR's Monster Energy Series, but that hasn't been enough to convince Target that their sponsorship of his No. 42 Chevrolet is worth continuing.

The retail giant is shifting its sports advertising away from racing, instead focusing on the "unique opportunity" that lies in sponsoring soccer. Target's relationship with Chip Ganassi, who owns the No. 42 car, stretches back nearly three decades and across multiple levels of racing.

"I have had an unbelievable relationship with Target for 28 years, and I have to thank them for their long-time support," Ganassi said. "It has been so much more than a team-sponsor relationship. They have their fingerprints on so much of what Chip Ganassi Racing has become."

Target has scaled back its racing sponsorships in recent years, but the announcement still comes as a surprise considering Larson's tremendous performance on the track this season. The 24-year-old has won two races, finished second in seven others, and sits in second place in the points standings, just 48 points behind Martin Truex Jr.

Target's decision will not affect Larson's future with Chip Ganassi Racing.

"This news simply closes one chapter of our race team and also begins a new one," Ganassi said. "Kyle Larson is a once-in-a-generation talent. He and the No. 42 Chevrolet will still be on the track for a long time; the only difference is that they will have different colors."

Target will assume lame duck status for the remainder of the season, but after that, Larson will be a man without a primary sponsor. The vacancy could be a major opportunity for companies looking to get into racing. Many of NASCAR's most iconic drivers are permanently associated with brands that decided to take the plunge — think Jeff Gordon with DuPont or Jimmie Johnson with Lowe's.

Larson's other sponsors, which include Credit One Bank and Energizer, are the likely frontrunners to replace Target, but there will surely be other interested firms. With only so many big sponsors and more than 50 drivers, it could end up being a wild offseason for the Monster Energy Series.

Energizer is sponsoring Larson's car for this Sunday's race at Pocono. Race time is set for 3 p.m.