Sport - National
Hendrick: "There's No Room At The Inn" For Earnhardt
Saturday, May 19th 2007, 6:31 PM CDT
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) _ Cross Hendrick Motorsports off the list of teams interested in signing Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Although he's spoken to Earnhardt, car owner Rick Hendrick said Saturday ``there's no room at the inn'' for NASCAR's most popular driver.
Earnhardt is leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc., his late father's company, at the end of the season. He wants to stay with one of the top Chevrolet teams so he can contend for championships, and Hendrick is the best in NASCAR right now with eight wins in the past nine Nextel Cup races.
Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing are the next best Chevy teams, and both owners have indicated they are interested in speaking with Earnhardt. Only Hendrick had been silent on the issue, but as he walked toward pit road before Saturday night's Nextel All-Star Challenge, he said he was maxed out with four drivers right now and couldn't fit Earnhardt in his stable.
``We're good friends and I've talked to him, because I really want him to make the best decision and do the best thing for himself,'' Hendrick told The Associated Press. ``But right now, I'm full.''
Hendrick fields Cup cars for four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Casey Mears. All are under contract through at least 2008, and Hendrick is currently trying to extend Busch's deal.
Hendrick said he's offered to help Earnhardt if he elects to field his own Cup team.
``I've talked to him about doing motors and cars if he wants to do this himself,'' Hendrick said. ``But that's really all we've discussed.''
Earnhardt owns JR Motorsports, which fields a Busch Series team and several late model cars. He hasn't ruled out running his own team, but Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, his sister and business manager, said Friday that expanding JRM to the Cup Series was their last option.
In his seventh season with DEI, Earnhardt is frustrated by his inability to win a championship and his difficult relationship with his stepmother, Teresa. He asked for 51 percent ownership during contentious contract negotiations, and walked away from the table last week because the two sides ``were never in the same ballpark.''
It made him the most coveted free agent in NASCAR history, but getting a deal done might not be so simple, after all.
JGR president J.D. Gibbs said his family would have a hard time signing Budwesier, Earnhardt's longtime sponsor, because of its family values focus. And now Hendrick appears to be out of the race, as well.