Dale Earnhardt Jr. And DEI
Friday, February 9th 2007, 9:00 am
News On 6
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants more than a piece of his father's company. He wants his stepmother to give him majority ownership, a negotiating demand that might force him to part ways with Dale Earnhardt Inc. after this season.
His DEI contract is up at the end of the year, and negotiations have been tense since Teresa Earnhardt seemingly questioned his commitment to the team in a December interview.
``The main factor is the ownership part,'' Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday at NASCAR's annual preseason media day at Daytona International Speedway. ``It has nothing to do with money and nothing else really. ... My father has been gone for five, six years now. I want majority ownership. That's basically it.''
Earnhardt said he was unsure whether his stepmother would be willing to give up ownership.
But he seems determined to try.
If NASCAR's most popular driver were to leave DEI, he would become the sport's most sought-after free agent. Most people believe Earnhardt only would part ways with DEI to drive for team owner Richard Childress, who fielded cars for the elder Earnhardt during six of his seven championship seasons.
Childress has said he would be interested in talking to Junior.
Kevin Harvick, who replaced Earnhardt's father at Richard Childress Racing, has said he would be thrilled to have Junior as a teammate. He even called Teresa Earnhardt a ``deadbeat owner that doesn't come to the racetrack'' two weeks ago.
The widow of the late Dale Earnhardt, Teresa Earnhardt took over as DEI's chief executive officer after Earnhardt's death in 2001 at the Daytona 500.
Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon said the following day he expected Junior to leave DEI, adding he would have his pick of teams and that Teresa was ``making a big mistake'' if she didn't recognize her stepson was ``holding all the cards.''
Earnhardt and his stepmother have had an up-and-down relationship for most of his life, and the frostiness between the two was revealed in December when she told The Wall Street Journal he needed to decide ``whether he wants to be a NASCAR driver or whether he wants to be a public personality.''
Earnhardt admitted the comment stung and said Thursday he has tried hard to ``keep the bitterness out'' when he discusses their relationship and his contract situation. But he reiterated he didn't appreciate her remark, which he assumed was a jab at the time he spends working on his one-hour weekly radio show, his television program and numerous commercials.
``I don't make ... it a habit of seeking out attention all the time,'' he said. ``She portrayed it as I was out there waving a flag, 'Hey, look at me. I can dance, I can sing and check me out.'
``I enjoy my radio show. It's an hour long. It takes no time to do. My TV show takes five days out of the year to shoot. Those things are easy.''
Wednesday, Earnhardt and his sister and key business adviser, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, met with new DEI president of global operations Max Siegel and team general manager Richie Gilmore.
Earnhardt said the meeting was an opportunity for him and his sister to speak with Siegel at length for the first time.
``It's one hell of a breakthrough for DEI,'' Earnhardt said. ``This guy's pretty impressive. To sit down with him and talk with him a little bit, I think he brings a lot of integrity and credibility to wherever he's at. I'm excited that he's at DEI.''
But will that change anything?
``I'll just have to see,'' Earnhardt said. ``I don't think that would affect my decisions. He's a great guy to talk and a great guy to work with, and he's going to speed things up. He's going to improve the negotiations and help those things and make it a little bit easier. A lot of the problems in the past was it was very clunky and went along. We could never get the gears meshed. I think you can improve that.''