Joe Gibbs Talked About Dale Juniors Plight

By: Correy Putton

Earlier this month, Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that he will be leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team that his legendary father started. The most popular NASCAR driver today said that he will be racing for a new team when the new season starts next year. His decision came after failing to take control of DEI from stepmother Teresa Earnhardt.

After the initial stunned reaction of the NASCAR nation, the industry was filled with speculations and expectations where the young Earnhardt would go after the current season. While he has his own team competing at the Busch Series, experts expect him to find an established team which will be competing at the Nextel Cup Series. This is because of the fact that running a team at this level needs a lot of financing and while Earnhardt Jr. gains a lot of money from his sponsor, it is not as large as the budget of major racing teams.

Recently there have been talks that Earnhardt may be talking with Joe Gibbs Racing, or JGR, that is owned by the Hall of Fame American football coach Joe Gibbs. Recently, the distinguished team owner took a break from the Redskins training camp to enjoy the All-Star Challenge. During the said event, Joe Gibbs commented about the talks saying that Dale Junior is on his way to joining JGR. Although he spoke about Dale Jr., he did not point out whether they will be taking in Earnhardt for the next season or not. "We talked a lot about it last week and were pretty forthright about it," says Gibbs. "Right now we're not going to comment about it and let the thing run its course. We think we've said what's important about it. Right now it's not going to do any good to talk any more about it."

He added that: "Junior needs to go through the normal deal and we'll see what happens. The things we do at (Joe Gibbs Racing) effects a lot of people and I don't think it's something that we need to talk about it."

Meanwhile, for his part, Earnhardt said that he is "very pleased" with the developments in his search for a new team. "Things are good," says Earnhardt. "We haven't hit any speed bumps or obstacles, and the temperature of the conversations that we've had up to this point have been very good." Although the popular driver may be confident in his search for a new team, many of his fans are eagerly waiting for news that would tell them where Earnhardt will race for come the next season.

While JGR has not committed to taking in Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the next season, Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports said that there is no room in their team for Dale Junior. In an interview with the Associated Press, Hendrick has this to say about Dale Jr.: "We're good friends and I've talked to him, because I really want him to make the best decision and do the best thing for himself. But right now, I'm full."

Meanwhile, another team which is seen by some as a good choice for the popular driver is Richard Childress Racing. This is the team his late father raced for and won championships. But up to now, it seems that Dale Junior is avoiding falling into the shadow of his father as he has not yet entered into talks with RCR. Recently, Richard Childress, the owner of the team commented about the plight of the most popular NASCAR driver today. "Dale is like family to me," said Childress. "I remember him from a kid growing up. He knows I'm always there for him. I want to give him the best advice and I'll support him wherever he goes. I'll support whatever he wants to do. We haven't talked since he made his decision. I just want him to take some time and look at whatever is out there. The time will come right when we'll talk. And if it's in the cards, whatever will be, will be."

He added that: "Anyone would love to have Dale Jr. drive for them. I know that he would fit in our organization. Our drivers, I've talked to them. I know they would fit with him and the crew chiefs. It has to mix. It has to be positive not only for Dale Jr. to come over but for all our sponsors, all of our race teams, for everyone involved. And that's the same wherever he goes." If ever Junior joined RCR, there are talks that the team might revive the Number 3 car that his father drove for the team and tragically died on. Although Junior admitted that he is not comfortable driving the No. 3 car. Indeed, there are those who would want to see Dale Jr. follow in his father's step by joining Richard Childress Racing but there are those who disagree saying that Junior needs to make a name for his own and that means staying away from RCR and the No. 3 car.

But one thing is for sure though, Junior needs to concentrate on racing especially that he was recently docked 100 points which puts him outside the top twelve in the driver's standings. He is currently ranked 14th with 1160 points, 721 points behind leader Jeff Gordon. So far, he only has recorded one top-five finish and four top-ten finishes. Although he is driving a Chevrolet Impala which currently dominates the current Nextel Cup Series like a high-powered sports car equipped with the exhaust dominates an entry level sedan, Dale Junior seems to be struggling. For now, Earnhardt must focus on racing for DEI, after all, this might be the last year he will be driving for his father's team.

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