SPORTS PEOPLE

Earnhardt Jr. stays with family team


Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 1:40 a.m.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.- Dale Earnhardt Jr. won't be leaving the family team any time soon.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. prepares his gear before climbing in his car for NASCAR testing at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach recently. Earnhardt Jr. said Wednesday he has not signed a contract to remain with his late father's team, although a five-year offer is on the table.

The Associated Press

After balking for several months, he said Tuesday he would drive for Dale Earnhardt Inc. through the 2007 season. The team was founded by his father and now owned by his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt.

"It was not a big issue," Earnhardt said at the DEI race shop on the second day of the UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour.

"We were passing the contract back and forth from building to building, and we hadn't all got in the same room yet," he said. "We just did yesterday and spent about four hours and got everything agreed upon."

"Little E" has said many times in recent weeks how much he enjoyed driving a Busch Series car last season in Daytona for Richard Childress, his father's longtime car owner. Earnhardt said driving a Winston Cup car for Richard Childress Racing someday was an enticing idea.

The popular young driver also wanted his personal appearances for DEI to be limited to a smaller number than in recent seasons.

"I got what I wanted," Earnhardt said, grinning.

It was also announced Tuesday that Dale Jr. and Teresa Earnhardt have formed a separate team _ Chance 2 Motorsports _ and that the younger Earnhardt will run it.

The new team will compete in at least eight Busch races and three Winston Cup events. Dale Jr. will run three Busch races, all at Daytona and Talladega, while DEI teammate Steve Park will race in five more.

Martin Truex Jr., a 23-year-old driver from the NASCAR North series, will drive in five to seven Busch races for Chance 2.

Ron Fellows, a road racing star, will drive the new team's Winston Cup Chevrolet in the road races in Sonoma, Calif., and Watkins Glen, N.Y, while 2002 Busch Series runner-up Jason Keller will drive the car in the Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway.

"It's pretty neat to be a car owner," Dale Jr. said. "I have had a lot of fun over the winter helping put this team together and watching them work and mature."

Earnhardt finished out of the top 10 in points last season in Winston Cup.

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