Earnhardt Declines To Discuss Contract Publicly

Tuesday, April 24th 2007, 6:31 pm

By: News On 6

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) _ Dale Earnhardt Jr. received a new contract Tuesday _ just not the one he wants.

Lowe's Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler presented Earnhardt with a ``Big Contract,'' poking fun at Junior's ongoing contract negotiations, during an appearance to reminisce about his 2000 all-star race win.

The contract offered Earnhardt Jr. .51 percent of LMS if Junior agreed to drive the tram, teach Victory Lane etiquette, be the pre-race musical act and serve as the track owner's personal chauffeur.

Junior, who is asking for 51 percent of Dale Earnhardt Inc., his late father's company, took the gag in stride. Then he politely declined to discuss his contract situation.

``We're just trying to work on it without any press, which is kind of difficult,'' Earnhardt Jr. said. ``Maybe typically it ain't fair to you or the public, but we like to do this on our own terms here.''

Earnhardt's sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge has set a deadline of the end of May to resolve the situation.

ESPN reported last week that DEI has offered Earnhardt Jr. majority ownership, which the driver and Elledge denied. Several people familiar with the contract negotiations have told The Associated Press that stepmother Teresa Earnhardt is willing to sell the 51-percent ownership share for between $55 million and $75 million. Those familiar with the dealings requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak.

Despite all the wrangling, Earnhardt Jr. said he's confident he'll remain at DEI.

``I'm pretty excited that things are going to be fine, things are going to work out with our negotiations,'' he said.

But he acknowledged negotiations would be different if his father were still alive. The seven-time series champion was killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, and Teresa Earnhardt has run the company ever since.

``If my dad was alive, a lot of things would be different, a whole lot,'' Earnhardt Jr. said. ``I don't like to get hypothetical. I think he would be pretty proud of what I've been able to accomplish.''

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