Dale Jr., stepmom dispute contract

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003

BROOKLYN, Mich. The standoff between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt, is more about a clash of wills than money.

Earnhardt Jr. has agreed in principle to most of the stipulations in his new contract to remain with the family operation, Dale Earnhardt Inc., but the two sides remain diametrically opposite to one key issue: control.

''I've paid my dues to get where I am, and I feel I have to stand up for myself,'' Earnhardt Jr. said. ''There's too many security blankets on one side of the fence, and there need to be a few on my side. Right now the contract looks out totally after Dale Earnhardt Inc. rather than myself.''

Kelley Earnhardt, the driver's sister, runs his business. She said the problems between their stepmother and her brother aren't as bad as everyone thinks.

''The whole thing is way overblown,'' Kelley Earnhardt told The Charlotte Observer. ''There is a verbal agreement and 95 percent of the deal is worked out. There are just a few things Dale Jr. and Teresa need to work out.''

Earnhardt Jr. said in January he struck a deal to remain with the team his late father founded through the 2007 season. Last Sunday, however, he said the contract remains unsigned.

Apparently, he changed some of his stepmother's demands. It's no secret Earnhardt Jr. doesn't like to make appearances on behalf of his sponsors and race team. At issue is who has control over his schedule and his position with the race team.

''I allot the team 40 appearances for whoever or whatever,'' Earnhardt Jr. said in January. ''That's all they get. I had to put a cap on it because there was no control. Nobody had hold of the reins. They could just bring everyone in they wanted to.

''We cut my appearances from last year in half. That's going to help me a lot.''

Teresa Earnhardt apparently doesn't agree.

With Earnhardt Jr. declaring he could be a ''free agent'' at the end of the year, speculation he could wind up at Richard Childress Racing has been rekindled. His father owned DEI until his death, but he drove for Childress.

More important now is the driver's spot with the family's team. He is concerned that if Teresa Earnhardt sells the team or finds a partner options that reportedly are possible he would lose whatever leverage he already has with the team.

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.

NO. 3 MAKES VICTORY LAP: Car owner Richard Childress will drive the famed black No. 3 Chevrolet at the Lowe's Motor Speedway Oct. 11 during a pre-race ceremony honoring former Winston Cup Series champions and longtime series sponsor R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

NASCAR's ''Victory Lap'' relives the great moments of RJR's 32-year relationship with the stock car series by honoring champions with the paint schemes that made them famous. Dale Earnhardt, a seven-time champion who died in 2001, is to be honored along with Jeff Gordon before the race at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

''It'll be emotional,'' Childress said. ''I know it's going to be tough that night.''

Childress and Gordon will take a ''victory lap'' before the race. Nobody has raced the familiar black No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet since Earnhardt died.

''We knew it would take something very special,'' Childress said of bringing the car back for one lap. ''And with R.J. Reynolds, we talked to Teresa and everybody at (Dale Earnhardt Inc.), and everybody felt really good about doing it for everything RJR had done for the sport and for Dale and myself.''

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