MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ Dale Earnhardt Jr. is joining Hendrick Motorsports, hopefully moving one step closer to a championship that has eluded him while driving for his late father's company.
Rick Hendrick said Earnhardt will replace Kyle Busch on his star-studded roster of drivers. The announcement Wednesday ended five weeks of recruiting for NASCAR's most popular driver, who became a free agent May 10 when he said he would leave DEI at the end of this season.
His criteria for a new team included finding a place he could win championships, and Hendrick is the perfect fit. Hendrick has won six championships, and has 10 wins through 14 points races this season.
``It became apparent to me the man I wanted to drive for,'' Earnhardt said at a news conference. ``He competes with integrity and most importantly, he wins races.''
It was not immediately clear what number Earnhardt will drive, and who will sponsor the car. Since starting in NASCAR, Earnhardt has driven the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet.
``We haven't even began to work around that and see what the options are and opportunities are and that's something we'll work out down the road,'' Earnhardt said.
Hendrick also has longtime ties to Earnhardt's family. He fielded a car in 1983 for Dale Earnhardt Sr., who drove it to a Busch Series win at Lowe's Motor Speedway. That entry was co-owned by Robert Gee, who is Junior's maternal grandfather.
Joining Hendrick's stable could anger Earnhardt's followers because it will team him with Jeff Gordon, a driver generally despised by his rabid fans. Following several of his recent wins, Earnhardt's fans have thrown beer cans at Gordon, most notably after career win No. 76 _ in April at Talladega Superspeedway. The win tied Gordon with the elder Earnhardt on NASCAR's victory list.
``We do have a personal competition. If you want to call it a rivalry, fine,'' Earnhardt said. ``He's fun to race with, and especially if you beat him, it's a good feeling. ... We can both challenge each other to be better race car drivers.''