MOORESVILLE, N.C. _ Dale Earnhardt Jr. will leave the company
founded by his late father at the end of the year in a shake-up
certain to ignite a bidding war for NASCAR's most popular driver.
He told Dale Earnhardt Inc. on Thursday that he had decided to
make the switch to another team when his contract expires.
``We worked really hard, but we were never close," Earnhardt
said of negotiations with DEI.
Earnhardt had asked for 51 percent ownership of the team now run
by his stepmother, Teresa. Negotiations on a contract extension
began before the season and have been tense all along. Earnhardt's
sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, had set a deadline to get the
deal done by the end of the month.
The two have been adamant their only goal is to help Junior win
Cup championships, something he's been unable to do at DEI. He
hasn't been a legitimate title contender since 2004. In 2005, he
had a horrendous season when Teresa Earnhardt split up his crew,
and he failed to make the Chase for the championship.
He rebounded last year by making the Chase, but was never a
threat for the title.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)