DEI made a stupid mistake when they let Dale Jr go
This has not been a good month for Dale Earnhardt Inc., and it appears to be getting worse by the minute.
Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway first reported last week that the U.S. Army is examining its options for 2009 and beyond, and could leave DEI for another team. Lead driver Martin Truex, Jr., still has not agreed to the provisions of a 2009 contract extension, and now, published reports have Mark Martin leaving DEI to drive for Hendrick Motorsports next season.
Martin has split time with Aric Almirola in each of the last two seasons at DEI, but has reportedly been enticed to return to full-time competition in 2009, replacing Casey Mears in the #5 Chevrolet. DEI Vice President of Motorsports Operations John Story declined to comment on the reports yesterday, but did confirm that Almirola will run a full, 36-race championship schedule next season.
"Aric is ready for a full-time ride," he said. “We're talking to Mark about what his objectives for the future are, and trying to marry that with our own, to make sure Aric has an opportunity to run full time next year… and that Mark is in a good situation."
Mears has one year left on his contract with Hendrick Motorsports, but has only one Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes in 16 starts, en route to 24th place in points. Rick Hendrick said of Mears yesterday, "I'm committed to him right now. I'm committed to him making that car run better right now."
DEI’s Story also confirmed yesterday that the team is still looking for a sponsor for the #01 Chevrolet driven by Regan Smith, and that if no financial backing is found, plans are in place to cut back to three cars. Story did not specify whether the move would come before the end of this season.
In a related story, ESPN’s Angelique Chengelis reported yesterday that the Army sponsorship is likely to move from DEI to Bill Davis Racing's #23 Toyota next season. That report has been denied by several sources, however, and Sirius Speedway has learned that Red Bull Racing is actually a leading candidate for the Army deal. Motorsports Soapbox [Note: Without Dale Jr. we doubt the team will survive long term. Hats off to Theresa for running Jr. off to another team. Dumb, dumber, dumbest.]
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