Lil' E Talking to Other Teams

CONCORD, N.C. -- While Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the week off to relax, his sister was busy sorting out offers of employment for NASCAR's most popular driver.

It's like trying to get a date with Jennifer Aniston -- if you see her, you've got to at least ask.
Dodge owner Ray Evernham, on the prospect of signing Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Kelley Earnhardt Elledge said Friday she has spoken to several teams and is prioritizing the options based on the best fit for Earnhardt. He announced last week that he is leaving DEI, his late father's company, at the end of the season.

"We have all along said we would talk to everyone, specifically Chevrolet teams," Elledge said. "We have not eliminated any options at this point."

Elledge, who is Junior's business manager, said the focus is currently on top Chevrolet teams, followed by everyone else. Elledge said that fielding his own Nextel Cup team out of JR Motorsports, the team Earnhardt owns, is "a last resort."

Earnhardt is the most prolific free agent in NASCAR history, and most of the top car owners have said they'd like a chance to talk to him.

Three of the top four Chevrolet teams -- RCR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Ginn Racing -- have indicated a desire to speak to Earnhardt. Only Hendrick Motorsports, winner of eight of the past nine races this season, has been silent on the issue.

Elledge would not reveal what teams already have been in contact, but said she's met with a few already and has scheduled meetings with others.

Richard Childress, who fielded cars for six of the elder Earnhardt's seven championships, has indicated he will talk to Junior. And Bobby Ginn, who took over a midlevel team last summer, said he plans to aggressively pursue the driver.

J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said last week that he'd like to talk to Earnhardt but indicated it might not be a good fit. JGR promotes a family values image, and Gibbs said the organization would have a hard time accepting Budweiser, Earnhardt's longtime sponsor.

Dodge owners Ray Evernham, Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske all have said they'd like an opportunity to sign Earnhardt, but acknowledge they are long shots because of Junior's loyalty to Chevrolet. Even so, they all are in line waiting to see if Elledge gets that far down the list.

"It's like trying to get a date with Jennifer Aniston -- if you see her, you've got to at least ask," Evernham said.

Earnhardt has stayed out of the spotlight this week, asking for a little time to decompress following his decision to leave DEI. He's cited a desire to win championships -- something he doesn't think he can do at DEI -- as his reason for leaving. But contract talks with his stepmother, Teresa, were contentious and he demanded majority ownership in the company during negotiations.

Earnhardt's team, meanwhile, is in trouble with NASCAR over an illegal modification to the Car of Tomorrow last week at Darlington Raceway.

Earnhardt was docked 100 points, and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races. He's appealing the severity of the fine, and will be allowed to work Saturday night's All-Star race.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


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