Dale Earnheardt Jr, by far Nascar’s most popular driver, has dropped a bombshell. Dale Junior’s contract with DEI, his late father’s racing team, is up at the end of the year and he wants majority ownership in DEI or he will become a free agent and leave DEI.
On Thursday, at NASCAR’S annual preseason media day at the Daytona International Speedway Earnheardt Jr. said, ‘The main factor is the ownership part, 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.’
Dale Junior’s stepmother, Teresa Earnheardt, has held the majority ownership in DEI since the 2001 death of Dale Earhneardt Sr.. The relationship between Dale Jr. and his stepmother has definitely had it’s ups and downs. In December of last year she told The Wall Street Journal that Dale Jr. should 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.
Dale Jr. responded to his stepmother’s comments saying, ‘I don’t make … it a habit of seeking out attention all the time, 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.’
Earnheardt Jr. would become the most coveted free agent in Nascar history if he were to leave Dale Earnheardt Inc.. Not only would Earnheardt Jr. bring his league of fans, but most likely NASCAR’S most sought after sponsor, Budweiser. Losing fan support and a sponsor like Budweiser could have severe financial implications for the DEI racing team.
Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon said the following day he expected Junior to leave DEI, saying 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.’
Time will tell what the outcome of this will be. As Jeff Gordon has said, ‘Dale Jr. is holding all the cards’, but his trump card could be winning some big races this year, and ultimately the coveted Nextel Cup.