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Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Sunday August 19, 2007
It was announced this week that the No. 8 will be staying at DEI for the foreseeable future, and therefore will not be on the side or roof of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car next year when he begins driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Much to the disappointment of Riki Rachtman and the majority of Junior's legion of fans, an agreement could not be reached between DEI and Hendrick Motorsports that would allow the number to be transferred over to Hendrick so that Junior might be able to continue driving with the number for at least the next five years of his career. According to Junior, the stumbling block in the entire process was his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt. Try as he might, it appears that Junior is going to be haunted by his stepmother for at least the rest of this season.
This dispute has been going on for years, but has just become public since the announcement of the fact that Junior is going to leave DEI at the end of the season. A large part of the population of Junior Nation feels like Teresa is being unreasonable in her demands or her refusal to acquiesce to Junior's demands to receive a controlling interest in the organization that bears his father's name. That opinion is not very fair to Mrs. Earnhardt if you consider the amount of time and effort she has put into the organization. Yes, the company bears the name of her deceased husband, but it is rather well known that Teresa was the driving force that built the company from the ground up. Obviously the company could not have been formed were it not for the capital that was infused into the organization in its formative years by the man whose name is on the door, but that was the primary part that Dale Senior played in the company. The elder Earnhardt had extraordinary demands on his time during his career and he was not able to spend much time focusing on building a fledgling organization into a Cup contending race team. That is where Teresa fit into the picture.
Mrs. Earnhardt was the brains behind the building of the company. Anything that was presented to have the Earnhardt name marketed on it, was passed through her. She approved all licensing and she handled all of the day to day operations of the company. It is not a stretch to look at this conflict objectively and be able to see where Teresa is coming from. She has built one of the top five organizations in the sport from the ground up, and now her stepson, with whom she has never had a great relationship; demands that he be given the reins to run HER company however he would like. Even if their relationship was a good one, it is still a rather unrealistic request for the top driver of an organization to suddenly demand the keys to the front door and expect the person who has spent over 20 years making the company what it is to just hand them over.
Junior is certainly a good race driver and is unquestionably the most popular driver in the sport, but neither of those items qualify him to be the person who calls the shots and runs a multi-million dollar organization, let alone while he is attempting to compete for a Cup championship and fulfill all of his sponsor obligations. Don't forget that he also has his own race organization in JR Motorsports. It seemed to be quite overly optimistic of Junior to think that he could take on that additional responsibility and be successful in all phases of his life.
With all of that being said, the question now comes down to the car number. Again, Teresa has done an outstanding job of making the No. 8 into the formidable merchandising juggernaut that it is. Obviously Junior and his popularity were huge factors in the development of the popularity of the number, but the marketing and merchandising that was steered by Junior's stepmother was equally important in cultivating the top merchandising number in the sport. To expect Mrs. Earnhardt to just give up the millions of dollars of revenue generated by that number without some sort of compensation is unrealistic. The amount of compensation was ultimately the undoing of the deal, and whether Teresa's request was unreasonable or not is up for debate, but that appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back in this whole process.
Teresa wanted to have part of the revenue that was generated by the number on a continuing basis, and also wanted to have the number returned to her organization when Junior was finished with his career. The result of that demand was that Junior felt like he was still going to be under the control of his stepmother, whom he is trying hard to distance himself from by this move away from the organization. Should Teresa be allowed to benefit from the efforts of Hendrick Motorsports marketing and merchandising the number that Junior is going to drive? It is hard to say, but Mrs. Earnhardt has worked for seven years to put more No. 8 merchandise in the stands than any other number in the garage area, and she felt like she should be compensated on an ongoing basis to let that number leave her organization.
The only other aspect of this dispute that rings deep and true for Junior is the history of the number. It was the number that his grandfather raced throughout his career, and the number that his father drove several times in Busch series competition during his career. Teresa does not have any kind of familial connection to the number and Junior feels as though that connection should supplant the monetary desires for the number. In the modern world of NASCAR, history and tradition are continually being trumped by the almighty dollar, and it certainly would have been refreshing to see someone in a position like Teresa's put the greed aside and let the number go to allow Junior to continue the family tradition. Unfortunately, Teresa tends to always focus on the bottom line and could not see past the dollar signs that the number will generate, so the number is going to stay with DEI.
There is no doubt that the number is not going to carry the same clout with a different driver in the seat next year. The odds are that merchandising revenues for the number will fall to probably one tenth of what they are at this point in time, but it will still be more revenue than DEI would have realized if they simply let the number leave to follow Junior over to Hendrick Motorsports.
It is sad to see that Dale Junior is going to have to run a different number during his tenure at Hendrick. Who knows, maybe after the sting of this breakup dies down a little bit, Teresa may back off on her demands and Junior can start running the number again in the future. As it stands now, Junior is very upset that he is not going to be able to run the number that his father and, more importantly, his grandfather made famous. He is certainly not going to be sending his stepmother a Christmas card as things look right now. But unfortunately it is the common denominator in the sport right now; it is all about money and it has become a business rather than about history and tradition.
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Junior had every opportunity to drive the 8 car but he chose to leave, they didn’t fire him. Ms Earnhardt did the right thing.
I certainly don’t dispute Mrs. Earnhardt’s right to the #8, or that it was certainly her option to do with it as she chooses. What she has missed here was an opportunity for some good PR, and to buff up her image with the fans. Yes, she should be concerned with the ‘legacy’ of Dale Senior. But she should remember that a part of that legacy is his children. Many Junior fans started out as Senior fans. With her actions over the past several months, I feel that she has tarnished some of that legacy herself. I find myself wondering if there will be some sort of ‘backlash’ coming after the way that everything has been handled. Yes, the bottom line is important (just ask Brian France), but so is goodwill. Could there be an unintended consequence of all of this?
Why should Dale Jr be some special exception to the normal way that things are done in Nascar?
He chose to leave one team to go to another. What makes him so special that it becomes unthinkable for him to simply drive the 5 — the existing number of the team that he chose to associate with?
Dale Earnhardt (who adamantly refused to be called Sr — a fact that anyone claiming to have been his fan ought to know and respect), had 4 kids, not just 2. Taylor is Teresa’s, Kerry chose to work for her. Additionally, Big E’s grandson Jeffrey is a DEI development driver.
The way a certain faction of fans act as if Jr. and Kelly are the only real Earnhardts is sickening. And though I don’t usually like to play the “What would Dale have said?” game, I’m sure that if he knew how people were badmouthing his wife he’d be quick to put them in their place.
The normal and customary procedure in Nascar is for a number to remain with a team, not with a driver. Neither Dale Jr’s popularity nor his last name give him or his fans a right to get their own way.
Fans vowing to boo at and throw things at whoever drives the 8 next year and fans vowing undying hatred for Teresa because she didn’t bend over backwards to accommodate their adored idol’s lightest whim are WAY OUT OF LINE.
Several points stand out here. Dale Jr.and Kelley wanted to force Teresa to give them control of DEI.Yet he has few race wins, no championships,and no background in business.He disagreed with his crew constantly and publicly, and told the world that each poor race result was because of his crew, his engine shop, or the team in general, at one point resulting in his own cousin/crew chief asking to be sent to another team. His JR Motorsports team could hardly be considered one of the dominant teams in the Busch series. Yet he felt he should be allowed to run the show. He should have concentrated a little more on improving his team instead of leaving his fathers business. By the way,the story about being so close to Hendrick being the reason he joined that team is laughable. What team and owner could he possibly be closer to than RCR and Richard Childress. Earnhardt specifically did not leave DEI to his children. He left total control of it to Teresa.I’m sure it was for a reason.This was all about money and control yes. But not by Teresa Earnhardt.
I always had the feeling that negotiations for #8 would go something like this:
“Whatcha want (how much money?) for the #8?”
“A dollar more than you got…”
The reason Sr. left the company to his wife is because none of his children were responsible enough at the time to run it. If you people would listen to what Jr wanted, he wanted to have all three
You really need to do some research before you make statements like “but it is rather well known that Teresa was the driving force that built the company from the ground up. Obviously the company could not have been formed were it not for the capital that was infused into the organization in its formative years by the man whose name is on the door, but that was the primary part that Dale Senior played in the company. The elder Earnhardt had extraordinary demands on his time during his career and he was not able to spend much time focusing on building a fledgling organization into a Cup contending race team. That is where Teresa fit into the picture.
Mrs. Earnhardt was the brains behind the building of the company. Anything that was presented to have the Earnhardt name marketed on it, was passed through her. She approved all licensing and she handled all of the day to day operations of the company. It is not a stretch to look at this conflict objectively and be able to see where Teresa is coming from. She has built one of the top five organizations in the sport from the ground up”. That is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen printed.
Junior made the #8 famous, and if you don’t believe that now, just wait and see how far that # falls. No driver wants to be the one to sit in that car. Only someone desperate for a job will fill that seat.
Whatever you’re smoking or drinking, you really need to give it up if you plan to continue writing a column. You have made yourself appear completely unprepared to write a column that contains facts.
I have been saying this for some time. Great article! Virginia, you need to do some research. During those years when DEI was being built, there were several TV stories on Teresa’s running of the company. Sr. simply didn’t have the business know how. I can’t remember a time when a number went with a driver to another team. I think Jr. was just trying to make Teresa look bad to his fans. He needs to get over it and move on. He won’t get control of DEI anytime soon, if ever. If he and his sister had curtailed their greed and been nice to Teresa, they might have someday been brought into the brain trust of DEI. Now I wonder.
“The odds are that merchandising revenues for the number will fall to probably one tenth of what they are at this point in time, but it will still be more revenue than DEI would have realized if they simply let the number leave to follow Junior over to Hendrick Motorsports.”
That’s almost certainly untrue. Let’s say that next year you get the duo of Mark Martin and Aric Almirola in the 8. Are they going to generate more revenue because the number is 8 than they would if it was some other random number?
Of course not. There’s no connection there. So the immediate value there is basically zero. And in fact, the immediate value is probably negative, because sales of 8 gear this year will most likely plummet to near zero. But if the number was going with Junior to be on the Diet Pepsi Max Chevy at Hendrick next year, they wouldn’t have nearly as much.
So Mother Teresa is cutting herself out of revenues out of spite – if DEI were a publicly traded company there would be shareholder lawsuits about right now.
Like Johnny Paycheck said,” Take the eight and shove it, I don’t want to work here anymore”
I couldn’t get past the second paragraph on this opinion piece (ok I peeked at the third and nearly threw up). What a bunch of crap. First off, how do you know how much time she spent building this thing? And according to you, how much time he didn’t spend? I’ve been Dale Sr. fan since he was driving the yellow and blue cars and nearly everything I’ve ever read beyond his driving was of his business acumen. To imply that all he ever did was turn the wheel and sign autographs is crap. As for ‘it being rather well known that Teresa was the driving force and building the company from the ground up’ might be a little over stated. I acknowledge Teresa’s marketing ability and how she did lead the way in convincing Dale Sr. the importance of marketing his image and making money from it but to give her total credit beyond that seems to be a bit of reach. I’ll also give her credit for perhaps helping him understand the value of the business side of the sport instead of just wheeling a car although I’m sure that would have progressed naturally. Marketing is very important but deals are not made without a great salesman and an executive to sign off, and at the end of the day he was both of those roles. But as for being the brains in building the company from the ground up, I bet the likes of Don Hawk, Pops and Ty Norris might have a perspective to add on that point. With that said, do you really think she hired the crews and guys in the shop? Do think she was the one who personally made it a directive of the organization to build the best super speedway cars in NASCAR? Do think it’s coincidence that the domination of the super speedway program wasn’t maintained and generally the performance fell off in the years after his death? (and Hawk left, and Norris left, and Pops was marginalized and now left?) I could go on but the point of relinquishing majority control to Jr., thus leaving the other children out in the cold, is a fabrication as I haven’t read anywhere that he wasn’t willing to pay for such control. And for not being able to handle it, Jr. just might be smarter than we all know. What seems to be petty in this whole thing is as it seems. But to make her out to be bigger than Roger Penske and to marginalize Dale Sr. is what really stinks.
I’m glad he got away from the trailer trash control freak. He’s better off anywhere away from her.
give Teresa the credit she is due—don’t make her the Nascar role model—she steered Dale the right direction to profit from his marketing ability—that she did for her need for power—Dale did the decisions that made DEI the formidable race team that it became—after Dale was no longer there to assure the money would continue to be invested in the “racing” aspect what did MaMa Teresa do??? She spent all the time and money making sure that every dollar possible was made off the #3 and any other marketing side of the business while the teams did without necessary equipment….This is what Jr. wanted to stop——
Paul,every team has a directive from the boss to build the best and fastest super speedway cars. And the reason for the decline of the DEI speedway dominance could just as easily be that Dale Jr. wasn’t getting the job done as driver. The information about Teresa’s huge role in the building of DEI actually came from Don Hawk and Ty Noris over the years. Who would know better than they?
People are making this out to be a Jr. vs. Teresa battle. If jr. is like his dad, all he should want to do is drive. If people want to see the sour grapes on this whole deal, look to Kelly. In his will, Dale left the company to Teresa, not the kids. And contrary to what some people wrote, Teresa read and approved all contracts that went through DEI. Dale himself acknowledged Teresa as being the person that MADE him trademark his signature. Dale was a great driver, but he gave a lot of trust over to Teresa. And I don’t think that trust was undeserved. As far as theh red nation, I am still a Dale Earnhardt fan, not a Jr. fan. But my driver of choice is now Tony Stewart, as close a throwback to Dale as there is today. Drives hard, and pushes his car into places other people don’t try. Sound familiar?
According to last night’s Wind Tunnel, Dale Earnhardt just fell off of the list of the top selling deceased celebrities. I think that only happened because fans are not going to give a dollar to Teresa. She has to know this. I think that she wouldn’t release the #8 because it was personal. I think she is actually costing herself money because of her feelings about Junior.
A few thoughts on your article re: teresa
If her marketing skills are so great, why do we not see more yellow number fifteen items in the sea of red at the several races I attend each year? You see some hunters and fishermen in the red and black of the number one because the sponsor is soo cool. teresa’s part in the marketing of Dale Jr. is cashing the checks he generates. The same thing she did when Dale was alive. Dale hired Junior, teresa the great NASCAR expert would never have done that, would she?
John Story, a DEI Official said the following about Almirola:
“We would never subject him to that. It’s too much pressure for a young guy,” Story said. “If we were to put Aric in a car, it would be some other color than red and some other number than 8. Aric is going to be a star, and he needs his own identity.”
DEI under teresa wants to develop an identity for their drivers, but they have no respect for Dale Jr. and the identity he has worked hard to develop, or the revenue which they have already received from it.
IF teresa had a heart, she would GLADLY give Jr. the 8 and thank him for the checks she has already cashed due to his efforts.
I will NOT support any sponsor on the #8 car and will boo any driver who is announced as the driver of the 8 car. Yes, even Mark Martin, whom I respect.
Get the hint teresa; you are on the WRONG side of this issue!!!
low class = lower case “t”
Anyone who claims to have been a “Dale Sr. fan” or to know what “Dale Sr. would have wanted” lacks all credibility.
There was no “Dale Sr.” The man insisted that he was Dale Earnhardt. Period.
Those who don’t know that or won’t respect that simply can’t be taken seriously on this issue.
To quote Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
“Before I met her, I owed the bank money, now the bank owes me money”
Dale Earnhardt, Sr. left his part of the company to the person responsible for building the company and the person he trustedâ€¦ Teresa Earnhardt. Period end of story.
Jr. had needs to get over his entitlement trust fund baby mindset and act like a adult instead of a six year old.
I agree with Sal. Teresa could have looked like a hero to the fans by giving up the number. I’d speculate why she didn’t because of spite.
Let’s go to the tape. Direct from the mouth of Ty Norris.
Barry, I agree wholeheartedly. The article giving Teresa the majority of the credit for making the #8 as famous as it is right now. Hogwash. The most important element in that is Dale Jr, which I would consider to be about 90% of the reason the number is so popular. Without Dale Jr, the #8 would be no different from the #15 or the #1. If Teresa is so important in the process, why aren’t those number just as valuable?
Personally, I think the #8 should stay with DEI, but not for the reasons stated in this article. Dale Jr decided to leave and create a new legacy. In my mind, that should include a new number. But, to think that Teresa was the main factor in the #8 being so popular, BS.
It’s probably best that Junior make a complete, clean break with DEI. He has no God given right to the 8. When other drivers switch teams, they don’t take their numbers with them. Let’s just move on, I’m tired of hearing about this.
Johnny paycheck was a race car driver??? Awesome….LOL
I will NOT support any sponsor on the #8 car and will boo any driver who is announced as the driver of the 8 car. Yes, even Mark Martin, whom I respect……..
What a Turd!!!! IT’s A FRICK’N # …..I only hope hms gives JR a number without an 8 in it so you’ll have to get that TATOO covered up…HE..he..he…RIP RED NATION!!!!!!!!
I think this whole episode is nothing more than a slick marketing campaign by the brilliant businessman Rick Hendrick. By making the Earnhardt Family Feud a public spectacle, the Junior Nation gets emotionally charged up. When the new Jr. merchandise “hits the shelves,” they will be all primed to plunk down their hard earned cash for Jr’s new team colors and “goodies.” They will show Teresa that she is not going to get away with being a “Bully!”
Why would Jr. and HMS even want the #8? If he keeps the same number, many Jr. fans, (maybe even most) won’t be motivated to buy anything new.
HMS should pay Teresa a percentage of new merchandise revenues for keeping the #8. How many 100’s of millions of dollars more will have to be spent by the Junior Nation, just to update their wardrobes?
Rick Hendrick and Dale Jr. are already laughing about their future trips to the bank. They may even have to buy their own “Brinks Trucks!”
They are probably dreaming about all the extra expensive toys they will be able to get with the “new found loot!” I’m sure that Felix Sabates is already “pitching” each of them a new $50 million yatch and the Gulfstream Jet’s sales-team is salivating.
Whaa..Whaa…Whaa…to all you Teresa fans. I was a solid Teresa fan a few years ago. Jr. has NEVER asked for anything to be handed to him. He’s the most honest and stand-up guy you could ever hope to meet, and he accepts full responsiblity for his shortcomings. I agree with several others – Teresa is being given way too much credit in this article. Without marrying Dale and without his money, nobody would even know her name. If you saw the NASCAR Illustrated issue with Dale Jr. on the cover, look inside – you’ll see a picture of a very sour and spiteful woman. It’s greed and it’s vengeance – both are pretty unattractive. I’m so disappointed in her. This is not the woman that Dale was married to. She has morphed into something that even Dale would have a hard time accepting.
So Mr. Eastman, how is this your problem? The Junior Nation will buy up his merchandise just as eagerly whether it’s brand spankin’ new from the ground up stuff or the same ole’ same ole’.
There’s no doubt in my mind he wanted the 8.
Funny that Kerry as not came out backing Jr and his sister . Kerry would have know what Sr wanted done with DEI . So we have to thing Kerry is Ok with the way DEI as done thing . He know that Jr was not the one Sr wanted to run DEI.
Guess the Jr fans have to come up with something to talk about because their boy ain’t making the Chase. Whether you like her or not, Teresa runs the show. She gets to decide who gets what and when. Does the 8 have familial tradition? You bet, but since when does the world of NA$CAR care about tradition? Southern 500 anyone? Virtually no numbers are retired in NA$CAR or held for certain drivers, the 3 is the only one I can think of. Did the Wood Brothers hold the 21 when Pearson retired? Nope. Did the Petty’s hold the 43 for another Petty? Nope. Point is, the number doesn’t matter; its the driver behind the wheel that makes the difference.
You people amaze me. Not a single one of you are worried about Teresa or Junior, it is the thousands of dollars you have each spent on Jr 8 jackets, cars, tattoos, and whatever else is for sale. Now you are crying because the tattoos won’t come off and the memorabilia will probably be a support of Kasey Kahne. You people are the ones who ruined racing to start with. More power to Teresa, more power to Dale Jr. He He, This Bud’s for you.
I was a Dale Sr. fan & am a Jr. fan, not so much anymore though. Jr & everyone else need to get over the whole deal. DEI belongs to Teresa Earnhardt like it or not. There’s no reason to be mad at her, owners have rights too. Ifyou have to mad at someone be mad at Dale Sr. he’s the one that made the will that left it all to her, if he had wanted to leave it to Jr. he probably would have it stated in the will.So why should she just turn it over to Jr. if his daddy meant him to run it, again he would have put it in the will.It looks to me like it’s mostly Kelly wanting control & trying to use Jr. to get it.meanwhile damaging his career.May be wrong butI think his move to the cheatingest team in NASCAR was a mistake.He wanted a clean break from DEI well he got it Budweiser #8 & all, live with it Jr. & Kelly
To Abby, just how well do you know Jr.? From your post it seems you know him personally. How do you figure he never ask for anything? How about demanding 51% of DEI? If my only son came to me & wanted control of my company he would get booted out of my office.I’m sure I’ll leave it to him in my will, like Dale did Teresa, not Jr., Kelly Kerry, or Taylor. DEI is Teresa’s get over it.Is Kyle Busch taking #5 to Gibbs with him, I think not.Besides 81 other drivers have had the #8 it’s not exclusive to the Earnhardt family.
Jr. is on his way to becoming a Jeff Gordon of sorts. It’s becoming a love/hate relationship with the fans. The only difference is Gordon can drive.
I am a Hendrick Motorsports fan, am now and always have been. The only exception, I was a Dale Earnhardt Sr. fan also before his untimely death in 2001. I am very troubled by some of the recent comments I have read from Dale, Jr. after DEI advised him that he would not be given the #8 to use at Hendrick Motorsports next year and beyond. The most troubling to me is the quote from Dale Jr. taken from NASCAR Scene, dated August 23, 2007. It states the following: â€œSo what number will Earnhardt Jr. race?â€ â€œEarnhardt Jr. said he is considering a number with an 8 in it, and encourages his fans to be patient.â€ “I’m definitely going to look at some 80s and things like that,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “That’s just common sense. I want a number that I’m going to like and it’s going to be a number I like, and it’s going to be one I design. And I’ll design the shape and the look and it will be mine, and we will build a new identity with that.
My problem is this. All of the current Hendrick Motorsports drivers have numbers that are all graphically alike, slant, style etc. Where does Dale Jr. get off attempting to be a member of a TEAM, and go off on his own to establish his own identity, instead of falling in line as a team member of Hendrick Motorsports? Also, he apparently has NO regards for Mr. Hendricksâ€™s affection to the #5 car number, so near and dear to his deceased son, Ricky. Come on Dale, fall in line my friend, get on board, or do the next best thing, and go ahead and run a cup car out of JR Motorsports, where you can rightfully design your own stuff with no concern to anyone but yourself. Its up to you, Dale to â€œMan-Up, or Move-Outâ€. I truly hope you â€œMan-Up.
Giving too much credit to Teresa would be incorrect. It is alot easier to â€œmarketâ€ and be successful at any venture when you are working with a superstar such as Big E. The support cast of professional people who want to succeed with them is tremendous. Look at Jordan, Ray Leonard, and Joe Montana. They have a Midas touch that extends to most facets of their lives. Still giving credit to Big E and Teresa because those endeavors could also fail without the due diligence of hard work and some sense. But lets not confuse it with real genius like Hendrick, Iaccoca, Bruton Smith, Bill Gates, etc.
As to the number 8. The reason some of the previously mentioned businessmen are good is that they â€œmake the deal happenâ€. The #8 will have no more value than the #27 after Jr. stops driving it. Yes there could be revenues that it garnered that Teresa might think would be ongoing. But hereâ€™s the thingâ€¦put a $$$ value on it in lump sum, have the number returned when Jr.sâ€™ career was over and move on. After this year she has a worthless number (no more than any other number) and now she has â€œlostâ€ that value that she could have received for it. Not Good Business.
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