The Frontstretch: Teresa Earnhardt: Still Making All The Right Moves by Tommy Thompson -- Tuesday July 31, 2007

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Teresa Earnhardt: Still Making All The Right Moves

Thompson In Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Tuesday July 31, 2007


"DEI without Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is just a museum."
Tony Stewart, speaking on his Sirius Satellite Radio Talk Show

Remember how so many, like Stewart, underestimated Miss Teresa's business acumen just a few short months ago – believing DEI would wither up and die without the presence of their superstar? In fact, this journalist vividly recalls widespread disagreement stemming from several fans about my position that the much maligned stepmother should hold to her stance and not give in to Junior's strongarm tactics to take over the company, jumpstarting a whirlwind of differing opinions in a piece I authored in April titled, For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Might Doesn't Make Him Right. Likewise, I remember the lukewarm response that I received in my later defense of Teresa's on-the-job performance as a major NASCAR team owner in a commentary last month, Junior Sets The Record Straight…Meaning Vindication For Teresa. No doubt, this commentary will receive equal condemnation from those that truly want to portray Teresa Earnhardt as a kind of "wicked stepmother" character that has, through her penny-pinching and inept business practices, prevented her stepson from attaining what some believe is his preordained destiny…NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Champion. However, as the past weeks and months have unfolded, the truth continues to shine through above the chatter. The facts speak for themselves; no matter what you think of her business practices, Teresa Earnhardt is one smart cookie!

The acquisition of Ginn Racing last week – resulting in a multi-million dollar expansion for DEI – has Teresa still at the helm and writing the checks, in the process elevating her already solid Top 10 organization to a whole other level. Simply put, the move solidifies the company for the future and beats other respected team owners to the punch in becoming a four-team operation. That is no insignificant accomplishment – one the likes of Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress, among other illustrious team owners, know is necessary for their future survival. Just the third team to officially field four or more cars, only the Hendrick and Roush stables can claim the type of expanded fleet that now lives at DEI.

But the Teresa Earnhardt critics don’t see it that way. Even those that begrudgingly acknowledge the widow of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt has made some positive moves of late often attempt to credit Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s defection from the family business as the reason for both the recent success of the race teams as well as their latest business coups. To do so, those detractors have to play fast and loose with the timeline of events that has propelled DEI to the enviable position it is now enjoying. Regardless of how many times Junior repeats his assessment of DEI, "I was surprised at how on par in some places DEI really is," or "I never really felt like me and crew chief Tony (Eury), Jr. had any trouble being competitive at DEI," – Teresa-bashing loyalists refuse to be deterred.

While the Ginn coup was swift and sudden, the acquisition itself did not signal some post-Junior realization by the organization that they needed to look at expanding. The truth is, DEI had been in acquisition negotiations with this same organization last year – well before Little E's announced decision that he was moving to Hendrick Motorsports. Though negotiations with then-owner Nelson Bowers and minority owner and manager Jay Frye did not result in a deal that made business sense to DEI, resulting in Bobby "money bags" Ginn purchasing MB2, the effort on Teresa Earnhardt's part to expand her company cannot be ignored.

Is it just dumb luck on Teresa Earnhardt's part that she has now ended up with a race team that she could not swing a deal on just a little more than a year ago? Nope…just smart business. Though MB2 saw the writing on the wall and knew that it was important for them to align the company with another for future survival, they were still in a position to bargain for top dollar…one year later, Bobby Ginn was not. He was on the verge of going “belly up” and was able to be bought out at a “fire sale” price by an organization in DEI that could easily afford to cover his losses. As an added bonus, Ginn’s spending spree on the deal made the assets purchased much improved; there were so many other enhancements that he had unwisely invested in to improve the teams during his one-year tenure as a mover and shaker among Nextel Cup team owners that it was a no-brainer to merge as those were included in the deal. (see last week’s column for more info).

Being able to recognize what is and is not a bargain is the sign of a good business manager. Though waiting to expand DEI may have seemed to some as a sign of non-commitment by Teresa as to the future of her racing division, it is now evident that it was a prudent decision on her part. But, good deal or not, the money still has to be available to capitalize on an opportunity when it presents itself – and Teresa was able to deliver the cash when needed because she has, year-in and year-out, operated her company both responsibly and profitably. In fact, Forbes magazine recently ranked DEI sixth in profit among all NASCAR organizations for 2007, a jump of two positions from their spot in 2006. The $16.6 million in estimated profit she accumulated puts her in a rather exclusive group of owners, numbering just ten, that realize any significant monetary returns from team ownership.

Convinced yet? Not everyone will be…there are always "yeah, buts…" from those that refuse to acknowledge that because Teresa Earnhardt chooses not to conduct her business through media blurbs, that indicates that she has not been active in addressing DEI's business needs. Her critics also like to point out that she has been too "tight-fisted" with the company checkbook to expand shop space, something her media darling stepson has pointed out is busting at the seams. But the fact is, DEI has been shopping for additional shop space, and just last year, they were in serious discussions with Robert Yates Racing to purchase their shop when the business outlook for RYR looked bleak. However, at the time, negotiations were in play between Yates and Red Bull (a Toyota team) for Yates' No. 88, and DEI technical director Steve Hmiel made their interests crystal clear: "We don't care anything about the number. We won't buy just for the number. We never even considered buying just the number. The focus is on the facility." Because of that, the deal fell through.

The list of unsupported indictments against Teresa Earnhardt goes on. Even great moments get shrouded in a sea of questioning; Martin Truex, Jr.‘s win at Dover last month is led to insinuations that Teresa was finally listening to her disgruntled stepson even though it was too late, resulting in retracting complaints that she was not doing enough to make the race teams competitive. I suppose those mouthing such nonsense believe that the inadequate attention to the race teams, including the three-year development of DEI's Car of Tomorrow program, was miraculously addressed and turned around in mere weeks…and then, only after Junior's announcement prompted action. In reality, such a situation would be bordering on the impossible…but people still believe.

Then, of course, there was the celebrated merger of the engine programs at DEI and RCR which was announced in May of this year. Ah, ha! See…that would have never happened if Junior had not left, say those faithful to the premise that Junior, though leaving, is responsible for what few deny was a smart business move by both team owners. Said Junior: “I think that’s a great move. I was telling Richie (Richie Gilmore: DEI Director of Competition) this time a year ago that all the Chevy teams ought to consolidate to one engine program. Depending on the teams you brought in, it would cut the cost tremendously. I think it’s an awesome idea because the sport’s getting so damn costly now. As far as performance-wise, both (programs) got a little to offer each other.”

But again, the timeline would suggest that Teresa was hot on the engine merger well before the February pronouncement by Junior that he wanted controlling interest of the race teams. Said DEI General Manager, John Story, “Richard and Teresa (Earnhardt) have been working on this project for the last six months."

Such proclamations don’t matter, though, to those dead set on condemning Teresa Earnhardt's management of the company she has run on a day-to-day basis since its inception. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has not won a championship in the equipment she has provided…and that is all they need to know.

The predicted demise of DEI and Teresa Earnhardt as a team owner after the departure of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are simply wrong. With Teresa Earnhardt quietly making wise business decisions, it is now becoming apparent to all that the company has never been better positioned – and that racing at DEI will go on long after the departure of its immensely popular driver next season.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


©2000 - 2008 Tommy Thompson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Kay Brown
08/01/2007 01:39 AM

The reason Dale Jr left DEI was none of the above. His father had made him a promise and
Teresa would not fulfill it. PLAIN AND SIMPLE!!!

08/01/2007 05:03 AM

I have to totally disagree with you again. It has become obvious that the problem with Jr. and his step-mother is personal….so if she is such a great business person, she should have found a way to smooth over personal issues and kept the driver who can best guarantee sponsors.

08/01/2007 05:37 AM

I agree with you completely. She is very intelligent and held her own despite so much vile against her. This is Earnhardt’s widow we’re talking about. He loved her, we loved him and he left the company to her and not the spoiled brat twosome who tried the overthrow. Jr still struggles as Truex flourishes. Teresa won and DEI is better off now

08/01/2007 05:49 AM

SPOT ON” I say!

I think Teresa never got into the media “thing” about what was going on with Jr. (as you stated), and with the Jr. fans following Jr. blindly, the masses were stacked against her!

She kept her quiet and subtlety went about her business, and she is SMART!

I also firmly believe that Jr. was led down the primrose path by his Sis! If Sis was not around, things would have turned out different!

Jr. had no interest in helping the DEI organization, he just wanted to free wheel thru life with no responsibilities. That I believe is why Teresa would not cave in to selling DEI, or part thereof, to Jr.!

08/01/2007 06:09 AM

I’ve said it many times before. Teresa Earnhart was and is the business brains behind DEI. Dale Sr. would have had little without her. She comes from a racing family and knows the business. DEI will go on without Jr. and it will be successful.

08/01/2007 07:36 AM

Kay…just what was that PROMISE??????…..I do not think that he was to be given the company!!! oh no…SR wanted a family business little e got caught up in the most popular race driver thing (not most talented)and thought his family was the RED NATION !!! not the people at dei who got him started…His dad is the whole reason this kid has the following that he does..think about it, put his driving record (wins, points) since in nextel cup on any other of the drivers and you’ll see that he’s not god’s gift to nascar thats just waiting to take over nascar when he has a multimillon dollar backing like HMS, he may run a little better but,thats because 24&48 will mentor him!!!!

08/01/2007 09:11 AM

I remember Sr. saying that he wanted the team to be a legacy to all of his children.

I also remember him saying that without Teresa’s business acumen, they would still be living in a trailer.

There are two things to consider.

As in other fields the cult of celebrity that flock to top rankers like Jr tend to convince them that they are really smarter, and better than others,who are holding them back.

And Jr and Sis forgot they had siblings.

08/01/2007 09:29 AM

Right on Tom!!!!!!
I wana marry Teresa.
Long Live The Queen.

Steve Cloyd
08/01/2007 10:09 AM

Isn’t it a wee bit early to decide if DEI has thrived, withered and died, or even remained about the same since Jr. is still with the team?

08/01/2007 10:21 AM

While it appears that Teresa Earnhardt has made good moves with the race team, I wouldn’t call the moves fully successful YET. Personally, I will reserve judgment on that until we see the team’s performance during the next season or two.

08/01/2007 10:32 AM

It is my impression that Jr. was dissatisfied with the way the company was just making ends meet as far as racing and not trying to get better. That frustrated him and he felt that if he was in charge and could spend the money they could be more than just average… Now that he has decided to leave Teressa is spending money to show Jr. that he was wrong. If she had intentions of making these moves all along, maybe she was just waiting until she could force Jr. out as she perceived him as a threat. If you read the one article today where Tony Sr. just visited Hendrick’s shop after the merger between JRM and Hendrick Busch teams. Tony is quoted as saying “ he called Tony jr. and told him that they should feel great any time they even come close to and Hendricks car just because of the shop and all of the assets that they have available to them.” That put in perspective that DEI was on the low end of the scale as far as being on the same par as the other elite teams. Teressa got what she wanted.

M. B. Voelker
08/01/2007 10:34 AM

Very well said.

Its really appalling the way people who claim to be Big E’s fans treat the woman he loved.

The Jr walks on water and Teresa is the scum on the bottom of the pond mentality is really silly.

08/01/2007 11:09 AM

while it may be true Teresa is a smart business woman she us also an extremely vindictive one—- Jr and Sis did NOT want DEI just for themselves but for ALL siblings—-as soon as Jr. left the money started to pour into the racing side of the teams— stop and think about how quickly Truex started to turn around— all the things Jr. was asking for from the racing side of the shop have now come true with the acquisition of Ginn racing— mainly the 7 post- now Teresa is out to prove to Jr. on a very personal level she can do without him—she resented from day 1 having to be “MAMA” to those kids and now they are truly out of her hair—

08/01/2007 11:49 AM

Thanks for an intelligent article free from the usual “Junior walks on water” bias! You are clearly an independent thinker and not just another Junior lemming.

Teresa was Dale’s soul-mate and the one he trusted above everyone else — yes people — including Junior — to make the right decisions in his behalf.

Teresa was the hidden force behind his success in life and continues to be even after his death. This woman is one smart lady and a class act besides.

Junior and his sister Kelley are a couple of vindictive spoiled brats and their father would be (is) greatly disappointed with their ingratitude and disrespect toward his wife.

As for the so-called Dale Earnhardt fans who are trashing his wife — believe me, THE MAN would put you in your place real quick.

08/01/2007 12:27 PM

NANCY….The list of unsupported indictments against Teresa Earnhardt goes on. Even great moments get shrouded in a sea of questioning; Martin Truex, Jr.‘s win at Dover last month is led to insinuations that Teresa was finally listening to her disgruntled stepson even though it was too late, resulting in retracting complaints that she was not doing enough to make the race teams competitive. I suppose those mouthing such nonsense believe that the inadequate attention to the race teams, including the three-year development of DEI’s Car of Tomorrow program, was miraculously addressed and turned around in mere weeks…and then, only after Junior’s announcement prompted action. In reality, such a situation would be bordering on the impossible…but people still believe…..NOW do you really think Teresa would hold back money from developing a Great race team soley because she wanted to deprive her brat of a son-inlaw …Please …she’s much smarter than that!!!!!!

08/01/2007 12:30 PM

If you truly believe the drivel you’ve written, you’re one twisted and uninformed individual.

08/01/2007 12:36 PM

I would just like to say that Dale Sr. was the MAN! I began to follow Jr’s career during the Busch Series and since the passing of Dale Sr., he has become The Man. I’m not trying to compare the two of them, just stating how I feel. When Jr. announced his departure from DEI, I was shocked, but accepted it. I was sorry that he and Teresa could not come to terms. I don’t believe ANY of us know the details of their personal relationship and to speculate just doesn’t FLY with me. I am not a Teresa “basher” and will continue to support DEI. BUT!! I will be Jr’s fan true and blue or red or green or whatever til the end of time. What irritates me is the responses you are getting here from Jr bashers. To call him spoiled and thankless, etc…I’d really like to know just how many of these authors know Jr. personally and just what strings THEY pulled to get the “inside scoop” on the personal and business relationship between Jr. and Teresa. If they were smart, they’d realize that the real culprit is yes, THE MEDIA. The MEDIA controls our minds. It reports matters in a way that causes us to try to read between the lines and these lines are NEVER clear. Remember the old saying “take it with a grain of salt.”?
Perhaps, we should all try to remember this. I saw both of Jr’s press conferences on television and the only thing I remember him saying regarding Teresa is that they did not have the same vision for DEI. How does that cause people to believe he is turning against Teresa or his father or anyone? If YOU go to the office or whatever employment you hold and just count the hours until time to go, would you stay at that job out of LOYALTY, or would you make the decision to make a change and attempt to find a postion you really meshed with? Some people love to talk…some people love to listen to themselves and it is in my opinion that this is exactly what has happened and how everything has gotten so far out of hand. I think it’s totally ridiculous. Obviously there are alot more people in this world than I thought that don’t have a mind of their own.

Robert Eastman
08/01/2007 01:26 PM

Tommy, great article and I totally agree. I believe that everyone will be better off, once Jr. goes to HMS (Jr., DEI and TE). I like Jr., but I could never understand why he thought that he should just be given 51% of DEI.
Since TE & DE Sr. built it together and Sr. left it all to TE, the very most that Jr. deserved was 12 1/2% (50% divided by 4 DE kids). When a partner in any business passes on, only his shares are divided among the heirs.
It only goes to show what happens when one gets full of himself! Dale Jr.‘s move to HMS will in the end be best for him, because he will truly become his own man. He will be able to prove to himself and the world that he is (or isn’t) a Champion in his own right! DEI will excell and prosper because the negatives and bad vibes will be eliminated, allowing everyone to concentrate on producing Championship caliber teams/cars.
The interesting “future story” will be, “Who will become NASCAR CUP Champions first, Dale Jr. or DEI?

08/01/2007 05:18 PM

Excellent and well written article! I totally agree with your views on Teresa Earnhardt. My main questions about DEI in the future will be about their overall driver quality next year and beyond. The fact is that after Junior departs the only elite driver left on the team with be part-timer Mark Martin and a handfull of unproven drivers. First DEI needs to be very aggressive in running driver development by actually fielding Busch and Truck series rides. If you checked recently they haven’t had many entries in nascars 2nd and 3rd tiers. Second they need to be able to attract and hold top drivers and crew members when they are available. Only with experienced top talent will DEI be able to perform at a championship level. It is also worth noting that I’ve seen a lot more of the black number 3 apparel being worn lately by the fans and a whole lot less of the Red number 8 stuff on race weekends. A lot of Junior’s fans have already jumped ship and are back to supporting a legend of the past on raceday. It sort of reminds me of the occasional fan you saw ten years ago wearing Richard Petty stuff, just on a much larger scale.

08/01/2007 08:26 PM

Letting Junior go will go down in history as the dumbest move ever made by any owner in any sport. A hundred million dollars a year in just souveniers. God. And where do people come from thinking the deal with Ginn makes DEI a powerhouse? What did they get? They got Mark Martin who will be gone in a year or two. Menard managed to go from 38th to 30th with not a shred or talent or even luck. They got a new building and a 7 post shaker rig. Other than that, they just got a bunch of used cars. And I bet they didn’t have the cash on hand so they probably even got a new mortgage. don’t say this deal made DEI a powerhouse until they win more than 1 or 2 races a year.

08/01/2007 09:39 PM

i do not agree with you at all. could someone explain why martin truex’s car is running better and jr’s is still the same as it was. i personally think teresa is not putting money into jr’s car, whick i think is crap!!! all jr fans are not jumping ship as they say, they’re still some who will stand by him no matter what!!!!

08/03/2007 06:23 AM

Where was Junior and Kelley’s biological mother that Teresa even had to be their “mama”. Oh thats right she washed her hands of them and moved to start a life of her own. Everyone says that Teresa is so mean to Junior and she never wanted a relationship, well this article seems to suggest it was the other way around so the fact that Junior and Teresa didnt/dont talk is ALL ON HIM
Junior and Teresa Earnhardt, Dale’s widow, had always had a complicated relationship, and soon after his dad died, he wanted it to be purely business with his stepmother.

“I think it took her a while to see that was my stance,” he says. “I really don’t go out of my way to spend a whole lot of time with her, and I rarely see her, so I think it took a while to understand, that’s how he’s gonna play it.”

As far as her calling him out…so what, she is his boss and she can call him out. Joe Gibbs has told Yeley that it is his ride to lose, where is the outrage and the riots over that!?! People say its because Teresa is “family”, um Junior didnt want to be her family so why should she treat him as such.

As far as him not personally slamming Teresa in the press, well he doesnt really need to does he? He has all his pathetic minions to do that.

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