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How is it going at DEI without Junior?

By admin | June 3, 2008

By Richard Allen


It has now been just over a year since the last win for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Martin Truex won the spring race in Dover in 2007.

At that time, however, the big news at DEI did not revolve around Truex’s victory, but instead, the pending departure of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was making headlines for the company.

During negotiations a certain degree of animosity was apparent between Teresa Earnhardt and her step-children, Junior and his sister and business manager, Kelly Earnhardt-Elledge.

In the end it appeared as though Junior was happy to be moving on Hendrick Motorsports and DEI appeared not so distraught that he was leaving.

Even in what would be considered a down year for HMS most would consider Junior’s move a good one.

So, the question is, how are things going at DEI without Junior?

Performance wise the answer is that they are not doing great but then again they are not doing horribly. As said before, DEI has not won without Junior, but truth be told, they did not win with him for a year and a half either.

The #8 car shared by Mark Martin(10 races) and Aric Almirola(3 races) is actually DEI’s best performing car. In owner point standings #8 is in 15th place, 17 points ahead of the #1 car of Truex. Martin has two Top 5 finishes and four Top 10s while Almirola has added a Top 10 of his own.

Truex has not returned to victory lane since last year on “The Monster Mile” but he did make last year’s Chase for the Championship. He sits in 15th place in the driver standings so far in 2008 with one Top 5 and four Top 10s. He has also had the misfortune of being caught in wrecks not of his own making which have hampered his season.

As far as drivers are concerned, the place where Junior’s departure hurt DEI the most was in the area of depth. The #01 car driven by Regan Smith has struggled all year and is dangerously close to the back end of the Top 35, currently sitting in 32nd place of the overall standings.

Had Junior been retained by DEI, he would be driving the #8 car while Martin would be sharing #01 with either Smith or Almirola. In which case the #01 would almost certainly be higher in the standings than 32nd.

Paul Menard is currently 27th in points with no top 10 finishes.

However, driver depth and performance are only part of the DEI/Junior separation story. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. brings much more to the table than just his driving ability.

The sport’s unquestioned most popular driver also brings an almost incalculable market value with him. Souvenir sales and the ability to draw sponsors with large checkbooks provide tremendous value for whatever team employs him.

On the surface, it may not appear that DEI has not suffered very much performance wise by allowing Junior to get away. However, that may only be a short term result. The real and long term effect of “letting the cash cow out of the barn” so to speak may not show up for a while but it almost certainly will show up.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “How is it going at DEI without Junior?”

  1. Butch Camp Says:
    June 4th, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I can’t see where DEI is doing any worse for wear without Junior, he wasn’t winning there & he still isn’t winning, so it seems status quo doesn’t it.As far as Teresa not getting along with Kelly & Jr. I can understand that,two spoiled kids trying to force her to give up the business that her husband obviously wanted her to have.

  2. Bobbie88 Says:
    June 4th, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Status quo would indicate he’s not making any improvement. So far, he’s not had one engine give out before the end of the race, not had the power steering fail, and he’s certainly a happier person overall. That’s called progress.

    As for DEI, it was Dale’s company and still bears its late owner’s name. For that reason only I hope DEI survives and does well.

    I’m just not sure if the 1998 Daytona 500 win anniversary COT was the way to go. Dale Earnhardt never drove a COT car. It seems like a desperate attempt to raise dollars.

    I hope I’m wrong….for Dale’s sake. As for Dale’s legacy I think it’s safe in the hands of his children….all four of them.

  3. Dee Says:
    June 5th, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    For one to call Jr and Kelley spoiled is so off base. Both Sr and Jr have stated how all the kids had to work for what they got. If you call a little boy that had to beg his dad to notice him spoiled then one should get his head checked. Do some reading they were not trying to force he out, they just wanted to have more input. As for a company that her husband obviously wanted her to have or was it one he trusted her with. Two different cases. Sr was not the business man he left that to her. So its a new day and Jr has found a new home that has welcomed him and that is what he needed. I am sure his father would be proud of him, not so sure he would be of his wife.

  4. Butch Camp Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Bobbie: as for the engine failures & powersteering that can happen to anyone anytime, Jimmie Johnson had an engine failure this year, they obviously had some problems in the engine dept. at DEI. I thought it was a mistake Ritchie Gilmore out of the engine dept,but the decisions made at DEI are certainly none of my business
    Dee: I was wrong to call Jr. a spoiled kid, from all news reports he worked at his dad’s dealership, & basically had the type of childhood his dad had.I think he has handled himself with much class since his dad’s death. Growing up in the shadow of someone like Dale has to be tough.Most people expect him to be like his dad,well he can’t do that, he’s not his dad & never will be, no one will.My take on Teresa is she’s a good business woman but needs to have some one with racing savvy as close to Dale as she could get. Coming from a racing family like the Houston family maybe she should be asking her uncle Tommy for guidance if he’s still alive.

  5. Butch Camp Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Bobbie: I think I recall that he did have one engine failure this year., But not sure,about that.You say he’s a happier person,well I don’t know him so I don’t know that. For me though, being a driver myself, I’m not very happy if I’m not winning,& any driver that’s satisfied & happy with anything less than first place needs to get another job, selling shoes or something.My car owner is very hard to get along with if I don’t win,by the way I’m the car owner now,since my best friend & mentor passed away,but I’ll bet he’s still mad when I finish any where other than first.An old race saying, Second place is nothing but first looser.Junior seems to have a lot of bad luck, he puts his self in a position to win but something always happens.That’s the way it was at DEI, & looks like he brought his bad luck with him to Hendrick,& spread it to Johnson&Gordon.