Image by: Linda Shier/Sports Image Times
June 13, 2007 Noon, Charlotte, NC
Article by: Jeff Kluss/SIT
Okay, what does Rick Hendrick owner of Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have in common? A new five year contract! Talk about throwing a curve to everyone and smiling about the confusion he created, Jr. has a grin from ear to ear.
Junior talked with Joe Gibbs, Richard Childress, and evidently a number of others which created confusion and kept everyone guessing as to what was going on. It seems that Darrell Waltrip was the only one to have it right from the get go by saying publicly that Dale Jr. would probably wind up going with Hendrick since they have such a strong program there and have the best equipment as proven by all their first half Season wins they have posted.
But lordy, who would have thought that Jr. would be going with the enemy in the form of the #24 team? That’s just ain’t right! Or is it? Seems like the fans are definitely going to have some “identity crisis” problems happening when the #24 comes in first, with the #5 (?) coming in second or vice-versa! Notice the question mark as well, will Rick Hendrick be able to leverage the #8 from Teresa or be willing to shell out the big bucks she will want for it since that is the only real asset she will retain that has real value. Come on Teresa…..give it up! Dale Jr. and no #8, that ain’t Christian!
One thing that Rick Hendrick said in the interview that scores a mention and was a subtle segue into what will transpire…..”We are planning on expanding our gift shop.”. We think that he will have no problem with this, not to mention all the other merchandise deals that will be struck before the start of the new 2008 Season. It makes you wonder exactly how much this deal will be worth to both Dale Jr. and Rick Hendrick. The sponsorship deal will probably go down for something in the neighborhood of about $30 million a year since the #24 is rumored to be even more than that. The endorsements are also going to go up, don’t forget Wrangler, Bass Pro, and all the others that will make the swing. Junior will be bringing ready-made sponsorships that will make the cash register go nuts. Don’t forget about QVC and all the die-cast that will be sold on Friday nights.
Then the other benefit Junior gets from his friendship with Rick Hendrick, Kelly his sister will get some employment. The question becomes, who will be the crew chief and crew member for the new Hendrick team? Does Tony Eury, Jr. rate a transfer at the end of his contract?
Of course don’t forget about how the opening occurred for Jr. in the form of Kyle Bush announcing his “Early Season Release” from his contract to pursue other interests. Think there might be something there for Michael Waltrip and Toyota? Or possibly Joe Gibbs? Only time will tell.
Some notable quotes from the morning news conference:
1. We are going to have to expand the gift shop
2. It’s an exciting time for the company…….Duh!
3. I’ve told the guys its okay to beat on each other but not to wreck your teammate
1. Never struggled with my decision…….(could this be due to Teresa?)
2. My only problem was being in limbo not knowing where I would be going……(wish I had such a problem with the potential for a 8 figure income)
3. Rick is going to give me some great equipment………..(Ya think?)
4. In response to “Are you happy with the length of the contract?”….I always like doing 3 year deals, but I think it is the right amount of time for me………(Sure, and possibly the right amount of money?)
So much for the hype……..now let’s get back to racing and see if Junior finishes up in the top 12 for the Chase.