Friday, November 14, 2008
Junior says his late father would have been able to help secure sponsorship
By Terry Blount
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he hopes good things come out of the merger between Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, but he isn't sure a merger would have been necessary if his father was still alive and running DEI.
"I think it's good for both teams," Earnhardt said Friday. "I want them to succeed, I want them to be happy and I want it to work. But I won't exhaust any of my emotions over it because I've got to get my own thing done."
Earnhardt left DEI at the end of last season and joined Hendrick Motorsports after he couldn't work out a deal with DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt (Junior's stepmother) to become the majority owner of the organization.
Teresa has run DEI exclusively since Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500.
Earnhardt Jr. was asked what his father would think about the team he founded having to merge to survive.
"I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine," Earnhardt said. "But he would have had better luck at securing sponsorships and maybe kept them from being in the state they're in.
"When my daddy died, all that changed. If he was here, this would be sad, but he's not. Now they have to do their own thing and make their own way. I don't have anything to do with it."
Earnhardt's departure from DEI last year was a bitter parting with his stepmother. But he doesn't wish the team any ill will.
Ganassi driver Juan Pablo Montoya will join DEI drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola in the new four-car operation. A fourth driver will be named later.
"I'm happy for Martin and Aric, and I think it will be good for Juan to work with Martin," Earnhardt said. "Juan will really enjoy working with Martin. It's great for Ganassi and will give his company a boost.
"It's good for both programs. It's going to be tough next year for everybody, so I think [the merger] gives those guys a good opportunity to try to get through the season next year financially."
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.