tampabay.com

Earnhardt's ripple effect

By BRANT JAMES
Published May 12, 2007


DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Richie Gilmore has an ideal candidate for the pressurized, seemingly thankless job of replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 8 Chevrolet next season: Greg Biffle.

"We'd love to have Greg. He's been on our list for years," said the director of motorsports at DEI, adding he had not spoken with Biffle about a contract. "If there's any possible way to get him, he'd probably be No. 1 on our list."

Trouble is, the former truck and Busch Series champion has a year left on his contract with Roush Racing and is negotiating a new deal. Although Biffle said he was "honored," he wonders what's really going on at DEI. Any of the "top-10 type" drivers Gilmore targets will have similar concerns, he said.

"There's something there that Junior is not happy with, and obviously, he thinks it's competition," said Biffle, 15th in the standings.

DEI approached Biffle as he was renegotiating his last contract in 2005.

"I thought we were real close at that time," Gilmore said.

But Biffle was amid a season in which he led the series in wins with six and finished second in the Chase for the Championship by two points. Earnhardt, meanwhile, fell from six wins in 2004 to one and finished 19th in points.

"I decided to stay with Roush in the 16 car, and it proved to be the right move, " Biffle said, adding he expects a new contract with Roush to be completed in about two months.

Stay or go?

Earnhardt's crew chief and cousin, Tony Eury Jr., said in the garage area Friday that he was interested in discussing the possibility of leaving DEI.

Of course, his language was tempered in company-man verbiage as Max Siegel, president of global operations for DEI, was standing 8 inches away in an awkward Communist Party propaganda officer stance.

"I would like to stay with Dale Jr., but I'm going to do whatever is best for Tony Jr. just like Dale Jr. and leave all my options open," Eury said. "Me and Max are going to talk."

Eury said later that there are mechanisms that would allow him out of his contract, which expires in 2008.

Looking elsewhere

Robert Yates Racing co-owner Doug Yates suggested Friday that his team's merger discussions with DEI "haven't gotten anywhere" and that he might be looking at other options. Earnhardt's departure made the situation more fluid.

"It doesn't mean that it's any better or any worse," Yates said.

"It's just different."

Yates called Teresa Earnhardt's commitment to Chevrolet a "deal-breaker" because struggling RYR has a long history with Ford.

Odds on

Now at Bodog.com:

Which team will Dale Earnhardt Jr. sign with?

Hendrick Motorsports: -110 (bet $110 to win $100)

Richard Childress Racing: -130 (bet $130 to win $100)

Joe Gibbs Racing: +325 (bet $100 to win $325)

Any other team: +350 (bet $100 to win $350)

Will Budweiser continue to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

Yes: -500 (bet $500 to win $100)

No: +350 (bet $100 to win $350)

Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive the No. 3 car?

Yes: -120 (bet $120 to win $100)

No: -120 (bet $120 to win $100)

Earnhardt-related news release of the day

Mike Davis, director of communication of JR Motorsports (Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Busch Series team) posted this missive at www.infieldparking.com:

"With the smoke still clearing from the biggest announcement we've ever had, let me now address an issue that needs to be clear and precise. If you haven't noticed already, there is a serious media fetish to report Junior's next move before anyone else, and in the process, it has become a collective and classic example of lazy, gossipy, tabloid-esque reporting that I've ever seen.

"My problem isn't with the 'little men' who start crazy rumors in a self-absorbed attempt to feel important. My problem is with the college-educated news guys who get paid to write, broadcast and report the news. But in an attempt to beat others to the punch, they run on rumors, put it out there for you, the fans, to digest, and hope they were accurate.

"It made for humorous conversations between myself, Dale Jr., and (Busch driver Martin Truex Jr.), but in the grand scheme of things, it's pitiful when these journalists refuse accountability by saying, 'I was only going on what my sources told me.'

"Time to check your sources, guys. It's bad journalism, bad reporting and bad ethics. The same applies for the Hickory, N.C., television station who is reporting today that we are announcing a deal with Richard Childress Racing to drive a No. 33 Budweiser car.

"Huh?

"You can take this to the bank: We're not even close to announcing where he's going because we don't know. There are many meetings with many teams forthcoming. Dale Jr. wants to contend. He wants resources. He wants equipment. He wants to give his fans wins and championships. A decision like that doesn't come overnight, no matter what you read on Yahoo! Sports."