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Its official, Earnhardt Jr. chooses Hendrick

Its official, Earnhardt Jr. chooses Hendrick

Its official, Earnhardt Jr. chooses Hendrick
June 13th, 2007

Mooresville, NC (Sports Network) - On Wednesday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that he would sign to drive for Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

Earnhardt Jr., son of seven-time Nextel Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and the most popular driver in the series, has driven for the company his dad started, Dale Earnhardt Inc., since 1996. He has earned 17 wins and 114 top-10s in 269 Cup starts with DEI. He also won two Busch Series titles in 1998 and 1999.

But after Dale Earnhardt's tragic death in a last-lap crash at the 2001 Daytona 500, Teresa Earnhardt took over at DEI and the relationship between driver and stepmother/team owner has not been a smooth one.

Over this past winter, "Junior" demanded that he be given 51-percent ownership in the company so that he could have control of the operations. The current management team headed by Teresa Earnhardt and Max Siegel balked at the idea and on May 10th the driver announced that he would leave DEI.

Since then rumors as to his destination have been everywhere. The most popular idea is that he would drive for Richard Childress Racing, the same team his father drove for from 1981-2001 and won six championships.

Another was that he might take his own JR Motorsports team which runs in the Busch Series and make it a Nextel Cup team. Other teams that have shown interest in Earnhardt Jr. included Ginn Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Interestingly, owner Rick Hendrick had said that he didn't have room for Earnhardt Jr. They had talked informally and Hendrick offered to supply "Junior's" Busch team with engines and chassis so they could go Cup racing.

"We talked with many teams but one stood out above the rest," said Earnhardt Jr. "I feel like this decision will give me the opportunity to win and hopefully I can give the fans what they expect and deserve."

Kyle Busch is the odd man out and the 2008 Hendrick Motorsports lineup will be Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears.

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Re: Its official, Earnhardt Jr. chooses Hendrick

mvbski wrote:

Kyle Busch is the odd man out and the 2008 Hendrick Motorsports lineup will be Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears.

Glad to see Hendricks keep Mears and get rid of that moron Busch   wink

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Re: Its official, Earnhardt Jr. chooses Hendrick

Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick still to decide car number

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says that there are still a lot of things to be worked out and that he plans to have an input into things like which number he drives and how his 2008 car looks at Hendrick Motorsports.

Although it was announced today that Earnhardt Jr. would join Hendrick in 2008, the number of the car and sponsorship for it have not been confirmed.

Earnhardt Jr. expressed interest in keeping the No. 8 currently adorning his Dale Earnhardt Inc. car but said there are a variety of numbers he would have interest in. He says he's discussed his role in these decisions with team owner Rick Hendrick.

"I'd like to be No. 8, but we have to obviously talk to [DEI owner] Teresa [Earnhardt] about that and see what her interest is there," he said. "Other than that ... there's other numbers that I have interest in. We'll just have to sit down.

"I want to have my hands in the design, what the look the car looks like. Rick's said that I'll have some ability to have some influence on what the car looks like, the number, things like that. We'll just have to sit down and see what looks cool."

Earnhardt Jr. is replacing Kyle Busch with the team. Busch drives the No. 5 Chevrolet and is sponsored by Kellogg's, but the lineup for Earnhardt Jr. has not been clarified. Budweiser sponsors Earnhardt Jr. at DEI in one of the most high-profile pairings in NASCAR, and Hendrick was asked if could take on additional sponsorship.

"We have several sponsors on our cars that are multiyear deals," the team owner said. "Our first, I guess my responsibility, is to those people, and we've got to look at how the teams are going to look at the end of the year going into next year, what spots on those cars are available and where they want to be.

"We do have some space, but we have sponsors in place."

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Re: Its official, Earnhardt Jr. chooses Hendrick

What will Dale’s fans do?
by Jeff Owens

For true, dyed-in-the-black-and-red-wool Earnhardt fans, this has got to be the second-worst day of your life.

Of all the places Dale Earnhardt Jr. could have gone, none could possibly be worse than going to Hendrick Motorsports, the organization that you have declared the evil empire.

Earnhardt fans hate Hendrick Motorsports like fans of the Boston Red Sox hate the New York Yankees. Like Alabama fans hate Auburn. Like Oklahoma fans hate Texas.


Because Hendrick Motorsports and its drivers have always posed the biggest threat to Earnhardt Nation.

It all started when young Jeff Gordon, that wet-behind-the-ears pretty boy from California, came into NASCAR and immediately began beating Dale Earnhardt, the Intimidator, the Man in Black, the blue-collar, working-class man who could do no wrong.

Ever since Gordon knocked Earnhardt off his pedestal, supplanting him as the sport’s biggest star and denying him another championship, Gordon’s name has been mud around Earnhardt fans.

It is those fans who boo him so lustily each and every week. It is those fans who have carried that hatred over to Jimmie Johnson and every other driver who climbs into a Hendrick Chevrolet. It is partly because of Gordon that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is so unbelievably popular. Yes, he’s the son of the man, but he was also the great black-and-red hope, the driver Earnhardt Nation has always hoped would knock Gordon off his pedestal.

Now, to Earnhardt fans, their beloved driver is crossing over to the dark side, abandoning his father’s team and his loyal fan base to become part of the evil empire.

So the question is this: How will you, die-hard Earnhardt fans, respond?

Will you turn your back on Junior? Will you declare him a traitor against all things Earnhardt and vow to never buy another red T-shirt or drink another Budweiser?

Or will you finally acknowledge that Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson aren’t so bad after all, and maybe, just maybe, they might be worth your support, especially since they will soon be teammates with Junior?

Which will it be?

That figures to be the most intriguing question of all now that Junior is stepping over to the dark side

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Re: Its official, Earnhardt Jr. chooses Hendrick

Three's not company at Hendrick
June 14, 2007

This will not end well.

It sounds great. In moving to Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will finally drive cars as fast as he is talented. And short term, the results will probably be great. He'll probably win a bunch of races early next year. But long term, big picture, this is a mistake.

It's a bad move for pretty much every one involved. Kyle Busch, who will vacate the No. 5 car to make room for Jr., says he "graduated" from Hendrick Motorsports, but he's delusional if he thinks leaving the best team in the sport was a good career move.

Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR's best driver for the last five years, goes from being trapped in Jeff Gordon's shadow to trapped in Gordon's and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s.

Jeff Gordon goes from being the face of Hendrick Motorsports to … what? Second fiddle?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. goes from being The Man at DEI to, what? Competing for oxygen with two other superstars. There's only so much attention, time and resources to go around, and two of those three will not command attention as they once did. Having a massive ego is a prerequisite for superstardom in NASCAR. All the best drivers are obsessed with success and winning. Put too many guys like that together, and they inevitably will butt heads. And by too many I mean more than one.

At some point in the near future, Rick Hendrick will have to deal with the fallout. And even the deftest touch won't solve this issue.

A lot of analysts look to other sports, so let's go there. The closest comparison is Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter being teammates with the Yankees. There was tension immediately surrounding who would play short and who would play third. Their tenure as teammates has not been successful.

Going further back, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had a successful run together in Los Angeles. They won three championships. But it's safe to say that if you took out their egos, they would have won six or eight. And there's a major problem with that comparison: working together and getting along is mutually beneficial. If Shaq wins, Kobe wins. The opposite is true in NASCAR. Working with teammates in racing is a zero sum game -- ultimately, only one benefits.

The last time such a super-team existed in NASCAR was 2005, when all five of Roush Racing's drivers qualified for the Chase. Since then, Kurt Busch left, Mark Martin left and now Greg Biffle has one foot out the door. And not a single one of those guys is as valuable or talented as Jimmie Johnson, who now becomes third most important at Hendrick. I find it hard to believe he'll tolerate that. I can guarantee you his crew chief, Chad Knaus, won't.

My bet is, this all implodes within two seasons.

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Re: Its official, Earnhardt Jr. chooses Hendrick

New team, plenty of questions await Earnhardt
June 14, 2007

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -In the biggest free-agent signing in NASCAR history, Dale Earnhardt Jr. agreed to a five-year deal with Hendrick Motorsports.

The move joins NASCAR's most popular driver with the most dominant team, putting Earnhardt a step closer to his goal of winning a championship. But there are plenty of questions to be answered before Earnhardt begins his new ride.

Q: What car will Earnhardt drive?

A: Nobody knows. He's replacing Kyle Busch in the Hendrick stable, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll get Busch's No. 5 Chevrolet. Hendrick has to play around with his alignments, and could wind up putting Junior in the No. 25 that Mears currently pilots.

``Rick kind of put it to me that he don't really know how the teams will be structured next year,'' Earnhardt said. ``He might squish it all together and split it back up again. I don't think it's nearly as simple as taking Casey out of one car and putting me in here or there.''

Q: What number does Earnhardt prefer?

A: The No. 8, of course. That's the number he's had since 1999, and his grandfather, Ralph, raced with it during his career. NASCAR leases numbers to teams, and Dale Earnhardt Inc. holds the rights to the 8. Junior said Wednesday he'd love it if Rick Hendrick could work out some sort of swap with his stepmother, Teresa, to buy the 8 for him to use.

That puts the issue in DEI's hands, and it's not clear if Teresa Earnhardt is willing to agree. Max Siegel, president of DEI's global operations, said Thursday he had not discussed the issue with his boss and all scenarios regarding the number are hypothetical at this point.

Q: Will Budweiser be Junior's sponsor?

A: It doesn't look like it. Hendrick has four primary sponsors locked onto his cars through 2008 and said he doesn't plan to tear up any existing contracts to make room for Budweiser.

Junior is widely associated with the beer company, and Anheuser-Busch officials would like to stay with the driver. But it may not be up to them, and Bud could end up on the losing end of this deal.

Q: Junior joining Hendrick makes the organization the New York Yankees of NASCAR. All that talent in one place could be bad news for the little teams. How does NASCAR feel about it?

A: NASCAR apparently doesn't mind, as evidenced by chairman Brian France's statement shortly after Wednesday's announcement. ``It should be noted that high-profile partnerships have always been a part of NASCAR's competitive history. There have been so many great partnerships involving people of great character and ability. We're proud of what they have brought to our sport. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has always said that first and foremost, he wants to win a Nextel Cup Series championship. We wish him the best of luck.''

Q: Where does DEI stand in all this?

A: After five weeks, DEI is finally ready to start the post-Junior era. Martin Truex Jr. scored DEI's first win of the season two weeks ago in Delaware to boost spirits. Now that Earnhardt's deal is resolved, company officials can step up their search for his replacement.

Busch is tops on their list of candidates, and at just 22 he's got a long and lucrative career ahead. DEI also could end up with Bud back on the car if the sponsor is shuffled out with Earnhardt.

Q: What happens to Earnhardt's crew, particularly Tony Eury Jr., his cousin and crew chief?

A: A lot of those guys are still under contract. Eury has one season left on his deal. Expect him to try to get out and go with Earnhardt, but it might be complicated: Hendrick already has four solid crew chiefs that came up through his organization.

Q: How does Teresa feel about all this?

A: Good question. The wife of the late Dale Earnhardt is reclusive when it comes to speaking publicly, and she's not said much since her infamous Dec. 14 interview with The Wall Street Journal that questioned Earnhardt's commitment and ignited the firestorm that led to his departure.

Earnhardt said the parting is unfortunate, and he's been bothered by the beating Teresa has taken on message boards and in chat rooms.

``They've beaten Teresa up pretty bad ... and I don't think that's fair,'' he said. ``She's not evil. We just don't get along. We don't see eye to eye. She makes an effort and made an effort. All these things have been unfortunate and they bother me a bit, and I had to quit reading the Internet.''

Q: Earnhardt will be teammates with Jeff Gordon, the driver his fans despise. How will that sit with ``The Red Army?''

A: Remains to be seen. But unlike his earlier decisions, which stressed him to no end because he wasn't sure how the fans would react, Earnhardt isn't as worried. He knows some will have a hard time accepting the alliance, but hopes they'll get over it once he starts winning races in a Hendrick Chevrolet.

``I know it's going to be 50-50, hot and cold. That's just the way it is. You try to do things for you and hope that people can understand that,'' he said.

Q: Because Gordon has an equity stake at Hendrick Motorsports, does that make him Junior's boss?

A: Probably not. Gordon is listed as the car owner for Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet, but it has yet to mean anything in terms of power for the four-time champion. He defers to Hendrick on all management decisions and basically is just collecting cash as part of his ownership stake.

Q: So does Junior have ownership equity?

A: Nope. He's got only a contract, and it's not even signed yet. The sides have agreed in principle but still have licensing and other issues to iron out. When it's completed, Hendrick said Earnhardt won't even be the highest-paid driver in the stable.

Q: So can he win a championship?

A: He hopes so, as does Rick Hendrick, who said he's already feeling the pressure to get Earnhardt onto the stage for the end of the year awards ceremony. If anyone can do it, though, it's Hendrick. His drivers have won six championships and 10 of the last 14 races.

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