Tuesday, September 6, 2011

“My Take” Dale Earnhardt Jr. signs 5-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports.

Last Thursday before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series headed off to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Atlanta 500, Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports announced that they have signed a 5-year contract extension with Dale Earnhardt Jr. The contract will now keep Dale Jr. in the #88 Chevrolet thru the 2017 Cup Series season.

“We’re excited to have everything formalized and announced,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Junior and I had a handshake agreement months ago, and we let other people work out the finer points from there. It was as simple and smooth as it gets.

“My feelings haven’t changed since the day he first signed with us. I’m committed as ever to putting him in the best possible situation to be successful and compete for wins and championships.”

“It’s great to have it all wrapped up so quickly and far in advance,” said Earnhardt, who currently is ninth in the Sprint Cup standings. “Rick and I were on the same page from the first time we talked about it, so there wasn’t any sense in waiting. There were never any questions or hesitations from either of us. It was just, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’

“I’m really happy at Hendrick Motorsports and enjoy working with everyone here. The team’s been very competitive this season, and we’re all excited about the direction of things. I want to make sure we’re giving our fans something to cheer about for a long time.” – Quotes from Hendrick Motorsports

Personally, I have been hearing about Dale Jr. or mainly his people working on a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports for the last several months now despite the fact that Dale Jr’s current contract goes through 2012. As a matter of fact, Rick said that he has had a hand-shack deal with Dale Jr. for a while now and they just had to work out the details. But you have to remember that Dale Jr. has had a hand-shack deal with Hendrick since around 15 years old, so this deal is no surprise to me.

However as for the timing, I have to believe that Dale Earnhardt Jr. might have saw what the media was doing to Carl Edwards, namely the daily circus and every week questions to Edwards as he was trying to work out this contract for 2012 and beyond with Roush-Fenway Racing as well as looking elsewhere as well. And decided that he not only wanted to stay at Hendrick, but wanted to avoid all of that and sign the deal now, instead of waiting.

As a Dale Jr. fan myself, I believe that Junior signing an extension now is a good thing for everyone involved and it will help Dale Jr. move along in his Cup Series racing career. I do look for Dale Jr. to be a contender for race wins every week like he use to be back in 2004 and contend for the championship. He does have a good #88 team behind him especially with his new crew chief in Steve Letarte. Now it’s all up to Dale Jr. as to where he goes from here.

However I also believe that this will be the last driving contract that Dale Earnhardt Jr. signs in his career as he will be 42 years old at the end of this extension. Now that’s not to say that he’s done by any means, but rather I see Dale Jr. driving for himself. He already has JR Motorsports and in 5 years from now, I would say that going Cup Series racing with his own team will be possible.

Now I look towards Richmond this coming Saturday night to see if Dale Jr. will make the 2011 chase for the Sprint Cup as he is 9th in points after Atlanta.