- May 10th 2007 at 2:27PM
Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaves DEI, becomes free agent
The world of NASCAR was rocked today when Dale Earnhardt Junior, the motorsport's most marketable and therefore most valuable driver, announced he is leaving DEI, the race team originally owned by his father. It turns out that there may be some familial conflict at the center of Junior's departure, as some speculate that Teresa Earnhardt, his stepmother and father's wife at the time of his death, wasn't willing to meet all of his demands.
Junior and his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, were negotiating with DEI to gain control of 51% of the business and complete control of the race team. The press is speculating that while Teresa was willing to give up 51% of the company to Junior, she wanted Junior's control over the team to be tempered by a board or committee that would approve final decisions. Whatever the case, DEI's offer wasn't enough to keep Junior at the negotiating table any longer, and he'll become a free agent at the end of the season. The news is even worse for DEI, as some speculate that Budweiser, Junior's biggest sponsor, will follow him next year to whatever team that signs him.
[Source: Auto Racing Daily]