The Frontstretch: The Fans React : Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s Decision To Leave D.E.I. by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday May 10, 2007

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The Fans React : Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s Decision To Leave D.E.I.

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday May 10, 2007


Editor’s Note : Beth’s Truck Series commentary will return two weeks from Friday. In place of this week’s version, she carries this special fan report on the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. situation.

Thursday morning, Dale Earnhardt Jr. rocked the NASCAR world with his announcement that he’ll be leaving Dale Earnhardt, Inc. following the expiration of his contract at the end of the 2007 season. The Frontstretch asked fans to mail in their thoughts, and here’s what they had to say.

“I am one of the biggest Earnhardt, Jr. fans, and what Junior is doing about leaving D.E.I. is the right move for him. As far as Teresa Earnhardt goes, she has made one of the biggest mistakes of her life in letting him go. Junior will be a big asset to whatever team he goes with, but it is a shame that he is not going to bd representing his own father’s company. I know he will succeed wherever he goes and I will always be his biggest fan.” Anonymous

“Dale, Sr is the whole reason I became a NASCAR Fan. I made the natural progression to a Junior fan…. (but) now everything has changed, and Junior just lost a fan. Actually, I think I began packing earlier in the year when he made the “magnitude of me” comment. I had hoped he’d learned that he might be too big for his britches with the crew swap a few years ago. Instead, he’s chosen to play the ultimate game of, “I’ll take my toys and go home if I don’t get my way.” The constant whining about his equipment had to be a contract ploy. In ten races so far, his cars have run extremely well. True, he’s had two blown motors and been in an accident (He was running second when he got rear ended slowing up for another wreck). Out of the other 7 races, he’s had a Top 5, two Top 10’s, three Top 15’s, and one Top 20. At this point in time, he is IN the chase. There are several drivers out there that would love his equipment. Why is he automatically entitled to 51% of DEI? Dale, Sr.‘s widow, Teresa (whom he married in 1982) is the owner of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., the race team, and the merchandising corporation Earnhardt founded with her in Feburary of 1980. Dale, Sr. proudly talked about D.E.I. in interviews before his death, how it fielded cars for his kids (including Kelly), how Teresa ran D.E.I. and was the brains behind it, etc. Other drivers that were close to Teresa and Dale have commented that SHE is the one that wanted to give Junior his shot in the big leagues. How is Teresa now, all of the sudden, the wicked stepmother. Her and Junior’s relationship is whatever it is, but Junior has even said that a lot of untrue things are written and said about her (including the one about not letting his mother fly on a D.E.I. plane). If the team is ever passed on to the kids, they should each get EQUAL shares. Kelley already has control of Junior. That would give HER 50 %.” Gio

“As a lifelong Big E fan, and a fan of Kerry and his son (and Kelley when she had her time racing) , I’m also naturally a Dale Jr fan. It was PAINFULLY obvious D.E.I. cannot provide him with a winning car. Countless times this year, he has run awesome and then the car went away; he deserves to move on.” Joe S.

“I am thrilled that Dale Jr has finally distanced himself from Teresa. She has spent her time on Dale’s legacy and foundation instead of strengthening the motorsports division. God bless Junior wherever he goes.” Virginia R.

“Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s move away from D.E.I. is a good move for both D.E.I. and him. If his father had meant for him to have majority ownership now or later, he would have had that provision in his will. Junior will have to earn majority ownership. He will have to prove himself to be mature enough and smart enough businesswise to command such an organization. It was well known that Teresa Earnhardt was the business brains behind the Earnhardt ventures. Dale, Sr. was a racer and knew racing, but he did not have the business sense of his wife who, since she came from a racing family, knew both ends. Down the road, it will not surprise me if she eventually includes Junior, but it will be because she wants to, not because he tries to force her to. He would be smart to be professional, keep his mouth shut, and work his way back to the business. In the meantime, he can race without the distraction of being inside the organization that he wishes was his but has no control over.” Reed

“Junior made the correct move in leaving D.E.I. It is no longer D.E.I.; it is now T.E.I. This company is a shell of what it would be if Dale, Sr. were still around to run the show. I fully support Junior’s decision to leave and go to another team. Any true fan would support him. I agree with his statement that some fans will be disappointed; I had hoped fully that he would remain at D.E.I. and receive controlling interest of the company. But in light of the circumstances and his decision, I will surely follow him no matter where he may go. GO DALE! ALL OF YOUR REAL FANS ARE BEHIND YOU NO MATTER WHAT!!!!!” Brent D.

“It took a lot of courage and maturity for Junior to leave the company he has grown up in and take responsibility for starting all over again (most likely for an established owner). Surely, we can give him credit for knowing whether or not he can race his best in Teresa’s D.E.I. Let’s support him in this difficult decision and look forward to the next chapter in Junior’s racing career.” Laura C.

“I always was and always will be a huge Dale Earnhardt fan. I also am a huge fan of Dale, Jr. but for different reasons. Unlike his dad who was the strong silent type, Junior wears his heart on his sleeve and is a breath of fresh air compared to most of the drivers that are "politically correct." Teresa is the one that fought for Dale's right to his name and large percents in all his contracts but doesn't like it when, with the help of his sister Kelley, Junior does the same. Dale was all about racing and honoring his grandfather, his father, and the Earnhardt name. Can anyone honestly believe that he did not build D.E.I. for his children? He is the one that promoted Junior to eventually be the "star" of D.E.I., and I feel that his long range plan was for Junior to run the place himself with his brother and sisters. If I remember right, I think Dale's will was quite old, and feel that it was not updated to include DEI and to protect Kerry, Kelly and Junior. Teresa will look after Taylor, but the other 3 were really cheated. This move took a lot of courage on Junior's part and I will continue to back him 100 percent, although I hope he doesn't go to Hendrick (Motorsports). I hate to see everything Dale worked for crumble, but Teresa has been shortchanging the racing aspect and has lost sight of the fact that the fans want the Earnhardt name to excel. Without an Earnhardt racing or a true Earnhardt running D.E.I., what do we have? I know Junior will keep his dad's legacy alive. Teresa is the one that is dishonoring the Earnhardt name; she never cared to be a mother to Dale's other children, and she sure has shown her true colors now.” Tykie in Portage, WI

Need to know what the next step is from here for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? Want all the inside info on how this story played out? Check out Athlon Sports’ Inside Racing Podcast with Frontstretch’s Tom Bowles and Matt Taliaferro to find out all the answers.

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©2000 - 2008 Beth Lunkenheimer and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

05/11/2007 10:53 AM

I think that Dale Earnhardt Jr has planned to leave DEI all along and has cleverly put Teresa Earnhardt in a no-win position to end up having a good reason to leave DEI. In the past, Teresa has held up the Dale Sr monument site in Kannapolis for business purposes (licensing issues) and has also held the rights to junior’s name which she eventually gave up and is known to scrutinize every product before Dale Sr’s name goes on it. Now in my wildest dreams, I can find absolutely no compelling reason why at this point in time Teresa should GIVE 51% of DEI to junior. 15% maybe, 51% never. That has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever happening while Teresa is alive and able to manage DEI, especially given her past history regarding business deals. You’d have to put the pen in her cold dead hand and move her arm around to get her to sign that document. SO, if asking for 51% of the company has 0% chance of happening, then you’d either have to be stupid to even ask for it (nothing ventured nothing gained I guess), OR, you already had your future plans in mind and needed a good reason to leave that would not make you look bad. Plus it might be fun to stick it to your Stepmother at the same time.

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