Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dale Jr. Leaving DEI

From FOX Sports:

Earnhardt, 32, announced on Thursday that he was leaving DEI, where he started his NASCAR career at 21 in the Busch Series, to become a free agent.
In December, Earnhardt said he hoped to have his contract completed by May. But as the months passed, Earnhardt added he was free to contact other owners on May 1. As that deadline expired, Earnhardt told on Tuesday, "You'll all know soon what my plans are." Earnhardt and his stepmother Teresa addressed DEI this morning before the press conference at JR Motorsports.

Budweiser's contract with DEI expires at the same time as Earnhardt's does. Earnhardt was expected to speak with Anheuser Busch officials at 10:30 a.m. ET this morning.

Earnhardt has a press conference scheduled for 11:00 a.m. at JR Motorsports.

Now the question becomes just which owner can present the most attractive offer. For Earnhardt it's not just about the money, but where he can go to win championships.

There have been more than a few Earnhardt sightings with Hendrick Motorsports' principals over the last few months that have fueled rumors that Budweiser would return to NASCAR's top organization, possibly with the No. 3 in tow. But which car would he drive and which driver would be displaced? Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson obviously aren't going anywhere. Kyle Busch, 21, has exhibited a few prickly, uncomfortable moments but factoring in his level of talent along with his age the potential of growth on both accounts is more than promising. Casey Mears has had an unfortunate season so far but it's not like Rick Hendrick to cut the cord this quickly.

Certainly, Earnhardt's relationship with Richard Childress dates back the farthest, although his grandfather Robert Gee was one of Hendrick's first motorsports employees. But since Earnhardt Sr.'s death, Childress has been there for the entire family whether the children needed something or if Earnhardt matriarch Martha needed a flight to Daytona. There's a level of trust between the Earnhardts and Childress dating back almost 30 years. While Hendrick's roster is full, Childress is currently in expansion mode and is adding 90,000 square-feet to the existing building.

"He's a great race car driver," said Mike Dillon, vice president of competition for Richard Childress Racing. "I believe he can win races and championships and we could provide that for him here.

"His fan base and popularity will certainly make any deal attractive with Junior. He's a genuinely nice guy, that's the cool part of the deal. But you have to be concerned with the existing teams here and make sure they're comfortable any situation we would bring in. We'd love to have him but you would have to be prepared. We have championship caliber teams already and have to be careful not to upset the existing situation.

"Certainly, we would love to have him. I hope we're that lucky. I wish we're in the running but if you listen to the rumor mill, I don't see that happening."

A third scenario has Earnhardt becoming a satellite organization with Hendrick Motorsports. Engines and engineering support would come directly from HMS.

1 comment:

Army Strong said...

I think I said it a couple of months ago right here. Jr. goes to RCR and drives the number 3. Evil stepmom owns the number 8. Next year we'll get to see the rebirth of the black 3 car with a big ole "Bud" on the hood.

Huge, huge, huge.