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Shouldn’t Junior have at least shopped around before renewing his contract?

By admin | June 29, 2011

By Richard Allen


If Jimmie Johnson was in the final year of his contract and re-signed with Hendrick Motorsports without so much as even testing the waters to see what else was out there, no one could blame him. After all, he’s won five consecutive Sprint Cup titles.

But on the other hand, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. actually is in the last year of his contract with Hendrick Motorsports and it at least appears from the outside looking in that he is going to re-sign with little or no shopping around.

Unlike the afore mentioned Johnson, Junior has had no such success during his tenure in Rick Hendrick’s organization. Since moving to HMS from Dale Earnhardt, Inc, the popular driver has won only one Sprint Cup race, and that was a fuel mileage stretch in Michigan back in 2008. In that same season he scored ten top-5s and sixteen top-10 finishes but has not come close to those type numbers since.

It would seem that with the bargaining power this driver brings to the table in terms of sponsorship marketability, those results would not be of the kind that would prompt a ‘no-brainer’ contract renewal on his part.

Even though Carl Edwards has enjoyed considerably more success than Junior in the same time period with his Roush Fenway Racing team, it has become known of late that he is at least looking at other options in this year of his contract expiration. Shouldn’t Junior have done the same?

Joe Gibbs Racing has an opening being that they field one fewer car than is allowed by NASCAR. Why not see what they could offer?

Roush Fenway Racing is struggling to secure sponsorship so they might have been willing to concede a great deal to bring Junior’s sponsorship magnetism to their organization.

And with the one year anniversary of Earnhardt’s Nationwide Series win while driving the Wrangler car with involvement from Richard Childress Racing, why not see what his father’s old team might offer?

Rick Hendrick announced a few days ago that the renewal of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s contract was in its final stages. Perhaps there was some behind the scenes shopping around of this driver by his handlers but it would be hard to imagine such could be kept quiet if it did indeed take place. It just seems as though the most financially secure driver in the sport could have taken the time to see if there might be a more productive situation for him out there somewhere.

Topics: Articles |

23 Responses to “Shouldn’t Junior have at least shopped around before renewing his contract?”

  1. Rob Says:
    June 29th, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Loyalty to a long time friend, who’s done nothing but had his back. Kinda cool if you ask me.

  2. dowzier28 Says:
    June 29th, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Richard that was a great piece, & we should all wonder why? We all know that if his check(sponsor) didn’t clear the bank, Hendrick would drop him ” Like A Rock”. Why not test the water while you can. At least if he were to go to another team it would keep us in suspense. It took three owners for his Dad.

  3. Steve Cos Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Junior not in a Chevy? Never will happen.

  4. john nelson Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 5:06 am

    What could RCR offer they are at 4 car limit.

  5. Wallbanger Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Where’s he going to go? RCR is full, and Jr. isn’t going to drive anything but a Chevy, period. Junior’s success is measured in dollars, not wins, and nobody makes dollars and spreads them around like Rick Hendrick.

    Loyalty is, I am sure, a big factor here as well. A factor not mentioned or apparently understood by the author here.

  6. kentuckynascar1 Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Why would he want to move? He is a Chevy guy, and wants to drive only Chevys. The only Chevy team currently in cup with room is Stewart-Haas, which gets Hendrick equipment. He stated he wants to finish his career with HMS, and that will probably happen.

  7. Charles Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 6:55 am

    He should have shopped around!

    Rick Hendrick is a shrewd businessman and knowing that Jr brings over 25 million a year to his organizion is what he is after!

    Hendrick benefits more that Jr!

    Childress should have been first on his shopping list followed by Roush in my opinion!

  8. Sue Rarick Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 7:22 am

    I have to agree with Bob, it appears he’s very happy where he is.
    He makes tens of millions a year and has for quite some time. He is at a point where money isn’t an issue. He has all he’ll ever need. So when a person is in that position they might as well make their choices beased on what makes them happy, not what makes them richer.
    BTW the mention of the win being a gas mileage win was a bit tacky unless you mention that one of Harvick’s wins this year was a gas mileage win thanks to the Menard push truck services. A win is a win.

  9. Richard Allen Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Clint Bowyer’s contract is set to expire at the end of the year. RCR could have an opening if it chose not to re-sign him.

  10. Lead-Lap Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 8:46 am

    The problem is that there aren’t any competitive Chevy seats out there when his contract expires. I don’t think he wants to switch to another make because it would mean ending his long-standing relationship with Chevy, and it would mean moving his Nationwide Series team to a new make.

    Richard Childress Racing doesn’t have a seat open because the only one whose contract might end at the end of next season is Kevin Harvick’s and it is unlikely that RCR would drop him.

    Earnhardt Jr doesn’t want to struggle anymore, so he doesn’t want to leave for an upstart Chevy team, like Stewart Haas Racing. So, when you consider what’s out there, Hendrick Motorsports is his best bet.

  11. Bill Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I can see your point on one hand. But the other side is Rick Hendrick has become a father figure to Junior. Nothing tops family. RH is the surrogate father at a time in his life where the pressure of racing is apparent in his dialogue with his team during the races. Only this year has he been more professional on the radio And the constant reminders by the the media that Big E is no longer with us. No money or deal can top the feeling of family and insulation from the microscope Jr is constantly judged more than any other driver in the sport

  12. Carol Crossman Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Interesting point you make and one that I have thought about. I never thought Jr would leave DEI, so leaving Chevy could happen. The fans have stuck by Jr through the lean years. I wonder if this has made a difference to Rick or would he be shown the door like others. The key is we are on the outside looking in.

  13. Larry Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Jr. is on the best chevy team and he has stated that he only wants to drive chevys so where would he go to better himself? That’s right, there is nowhere to go. Take Carl Edwards, all these rumors about Gibb’s courting him makes you wonder where his loyalty is. Will it be with Roush and Ford who have made him rich and famous or will it be to Gibbs and Toyota who will probably throw a lot of money at him. Like Jack Roush said about Toyota, they will throw a lot of money into the sport and buy themselves a championship no matter what it takes and this is a perfect example. And, I’m sure Carl is getting paid well at Roush and if he didn’t make another dime he probably has enough money to last him his entire life if he manages it well. Again, Jr. made the right decision. Not many teams out there better than Hendricks no matter the make. What most fans are interested in is what will Carl Edwards do. Will he show loyalty or jump to the highest bidder. I have a friend who is a big Carl Edwards Fan but he has already said if Carl goes to Gibbs and Toyota then he will not be a fan anymore. And, how will Carl and Kyle get along? Carl says he owes KYle one now from Phoenix so guess he get that back before he joins the Gibbs Team.

  14. Fidel Prique Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Loyalty sure doesn’t get the mileage it once did.

    And everybody wasn’t cut out for Hendrick’s Magic Kingdom.

  15. Russ Edwards Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Many people are aware that, as Rich’s article says, that Junior brings a great cash machine to the table. They are also aware that he brings a rep, (talked about privately for fear of the wrath of Jr. nation) as a driver that is less than spectacular.
    Hendrick can absorb the downside and help facilitate the upside more than any other team owner. So why would they not continue for the remainder of Jrs. career? Its a win for both, simple as that.

  16. Eric Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 11:37 am

    he wouldnt go to gibbs because 1. he wouldnt be caught dead in a toyota. 2. that ride wouldnt be in the top 35 in owner points and junior hasnt had the best luck qualifying here lately. he wouldnt go to roush because he wouldnt get caught dead in a ford. rcr doesnt have a ride open. menard hasnt done bad, i think burton is in talks or just renewed his contract, bowyer wants to stay and harvick has 3 wins so he aint going anywhere. plus ecr would put him back to working with dei so why not just go drive the 8 again for egr. truth is i think he likes woriking with mr hendrick because hes one of them fatherly guys that always gives the best advice. someone to go to when you have a problem, and someone who has his back. the only place he would probably look at( i cant speak for him) is stewart haas. he could still keep a relationship with hendrick as well as buying motors and chassis for the nationwide program. him and stewart are buddies and at daytona have always been unofficial teamates anyway. i think if the negotiations took place last year he probably would have been looking. but i still cant speak for the man. that rocket 88 dont look too bad this year

  17. Kevin Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Jr has already stated in the past that he won’t drive anything but Chevrolet. Ever.

    There really isn’t any better opportunity then where he is at right now.

    He’s got the best equipment and this year he’s beginning to build something that could be special. Why kill the momentum now.

    Sign it, seal it, deliver it. Jr is at Hendrick to stay.

  18. blair menzies Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Jr. is a cash cow for Hendrick. Rick knows it…and I.m sure Jr. does too!! Even with Kasey moving to the HM stable…his “marketability” is no where what Jr’s generates.

  19. John McManus Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Hendrick is a better organization than Earnhart is a driver. How could he do any better than a forgiving organization that pays way over the line?

  20. CL Way Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I believe his contract ends in 2012 NOT at the end of 2011. He had a 5 year contract starting in 2008?

  21. Larry Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Don’t worry John, Hendrick hasn’t lost any money on Jr. if that’s what you are worried about.

  22. Marybeth Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    This is only the 4th year of a 5 year contract with Rick. Nothing needs to, or should be done for at least another year.
    He should have a seasoned agent/lawyer shopping him around now. Lacking that, his agent/lawyer should be getting a performance clause in any new contract that spells out that Jr. is happy with performance or he can leave HMS. It is an accepted practice in F1. Sebastien Vettel insisted on it his new contract with Red Bull.
    There is no reason that a contract has to be a death warrant to a career because of a contract that is not working for the driver.

  23. dawg Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    As the method actor always want’s to know, what’s his motovation here? More money? Theoretically, he should already have enough to burn a wet matress.
    What he needs to do is work on his legacy, & the onlt way to do that is to win races.
    No place he could possably be ,would be better equipted than Hendrick. Unlike most other drivers, he doesn’t need to do a fake to try to pry a few moer bucks out of his owner.
    As I see it, an extention signed with out any drama is in his best interest. As hard as it’s been to get to this point, I wouldn’t do anything to set it back.