What do the other Nascar fans on here think? I think that Hendicks will be a MAJOR force to be reckoned withe next year, even more so than this year. Dale JR has always said the he can win the championship if given a championship car.
http://www.nascar.com/2007/news/headlines/cup/06/12/dearnhardtjr.future.plans/index.htmlFor Earnhardt Jr., all signs point to Hendrick in 2008
Announcement regarding future to come on Wednesday
By David Caraviello, NASCAR.COM
June 12, 2007
06:02 PM EDT
Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., racing together as teammates -- it's a powerhouse combination of megawatt marketability that will become reality at Hendrick Motorsports next year.
Earnhardt has scheduled an 11 a.m. ET news conference at his JR Motorsports shop in Mooresville, N.C., during which he will announce his plans for next season, according to a team spokesman. Sources have indicated to NASCAR.COM that those plans center on Hendrick Motorsports, the most successful organization in Nextel Cup this season, with 10 race victories in 14 starts.
Sources also told NASCAR.COM that Earnhardt will replace Kyle Busch, who will not be in Hendrick's No. 5 car next season. A Hendrick spokesman declined to comment, while a JR Motorsports spokesman would confirm only that Wednesday's announcement concerned Earnhardt's plans for 2008 and beyond. Earnhardt has been looking for a new ride since he announced his plans to split from Dale Earnhardt Inc when his contract expires at the end of this season.
Hendrick, with six total championships on NASCAR's premier series, fits with Earnhardt's desires to drive for a contender and to continue to pilot Chevrolets. The Hendrick team also had ties to Earnhardt's late father, who shook down the first car the organization ever built, and was behind the wheel when team owner Rick Hendrick recorded his first NASCAR victory in a Busch race at Charlotte in 1983.
Earnhardt Jr.'s car sponsor, Budweiser, also appeared on Hendrick cars in the mid-1990s, but indications are that the beer company may not follow its new driver to his new team. Earnhardt has only a personal services deal remaining with Budweiser for next season, opening the possibility that he could step into the same Kellogg's-backed car that Busch drives now.
The Sporting News Wire Service reports that the Budweiser brand that sponsors the No. 8 DEI car will not be involved in Wednesday's news conference in any way. Nor has Budweiser been part of Earnhardt's negotiations with potential new employers, according to Anheuser-Busch spokesperson Brian Eaton.
Earnhardt and his manager, sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, have spoken with a number of unspecified team owners since the driver's impending departure from DEI was announced May 10. Three Chevy teams -- Hendrick, Richard Childress Racing, and Joe Gibbs Racing -- emerged as frontrunners, with Ginn Racing lurking as a dark horse.
But Childress, owner of the team that fielded cars for Earnhardt's father, was on a hunting expedition Tuesday in New Zealand, and not expected to return until the end of the week. The Gibbs team has expressed unease with the presence of a beer sponsor, as well as the idea of a rapid expansion to a fourth team. Team president J.D. Gibbs is also out of the office this week on vacation, according to his assistant.
The addition of Earnhardt leaves Hendrick with a 2008 lineup that also includes four-time champion Gordon, reigning Nextel Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, and Casey Mears, who won his first race on NASCAR's premier circuit last month at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Now add to that mix the sport's most popular driver, with 17 career race wins, three career finishes inside the top five in final points, and a legion of devoted, red-clad fans.
As recently as last month, any potential marriage between Hendrick and Earnhardt seemed unlikely. Hendrick's team is already at NASCAR's impending four-car limit, and has four drivers under contract beyond this season. Asked by reporters whether his team could accommodate Earnhardt, Hendrick said there was "no room at the inn."
But now, apparently, there is. The impending departure of Busch, a four-time Nextel Cup race winner whose contract expires after the 2008 season, will make teammates out of Earnhardt and Gordon, the two biggest names in the sport, in an alliance made in marketing heaven.