Volume III, Issue 8, Page 11
With John Carollo

I’m one of you. Long before my first article or big name interview and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a stock car fan. So for that reason, my name doesn’t matter and neither does my photo. It’s more like we’re just sitting here in the grandstand before the race, talking about Chevys and NASCAR. Hey, you want a cold one? --JC

It’s DEI Watchin’ Time, Again!

Last month, we all watched ‘ol Smoke Stewart move outta Toyota Town and head on home to Chevy Ville. Now, we’re watching our old buddies, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI) – but for different reasons. DEI has done good this year but they’ve messed up, too. It kinda seems like they take three steps forward, and end up backpedaling two.

First they lost their main attraction, Dale Jr. But they got one of the coolest guys to ever buckle up for ‘em, Mark Martin. (I’m thinking he’s having an absolute ball in his Chevys!) But now he’s gonna go to the same place Jr. went, Hendrick Motorsports. Does that mean DEI is like a farm league for Hendrick to cherry pick?

Also, DEI and Jr. lost Budweiser. But hell, so did the USA when foreign owners took it over. (I’m here to tell ya, I will not drink my Bud warm, dammit!) It remains to be seen if’n Bud will stay in NASCAR, even if it is on the hood of a Dodge.

Then, DEI starts talking ‘bout how they may skin it back to three cars cuz the Army is buggin’ out. Along comes some noise about Martin Truex leaving DEI. Ya see, his contract is up the end of this year and it’s shopping season in NASCAR Land. But with Jr. and Mark Martin gone, Truex is the big dog on the DEI porch, right?

And there was that talk about DEI being up for sale. I’m guessing they’ll not sell it outright, but instead take on a sugar daddy like some of those other teams—but not just yet, anyway. On-track, DEI is, well, lacking and that ain’t helping all that off-track stuff. So all this makes life around DEI kinda crappy because nobody knows what’s gonna happen next.

Well, Truex is happening. He re-upped with DEI. And that’s a positive thing for both of ‘em. When they announced Truex was re-signing, they answered some questions and a few interesting thing came up.

The first thing is that this new Truex/DEI contract is only for 2009 which means we’ll probably do this dance again next year. Truex says, “Yeah, it’s through 2009 for right now and a little bit down the road we’re going to look at doing some long-term stuff. Right now, we just really want to focus on getting the performance back that we had last year and that we had at the beginning part of this year.” That sounds ‘bout right.

Truex went on to talk on how it seems people are taking shots at DEI and explained, “Well I think they (DEI) get criticized a lot for the way the wind blows sometimes, it seems like. I don’t know what it is. If we run 10th, it’s not good enough. Obviously we need to win a championship. We haven’t done that. I don’t know. It’s always a bad story. It’s never a good one. Even if we do good, there is always the negative side of it. We just need to perform on the race track and the rest of it will take care of itself.” Yeah, winning is cool.

At DEI, Max Siegel and John Story do all the talking for Ms Earnhardt. Somebody asked ‘Ol Max if it was his goal to get all this contract stuff done sooner rather than later. So he says, “Yeah, I think that all of us are committed to making the entire company better and we look each other in the eye and we’re honest with one another about what we can do to support each other in trying to build something great…” Fair enuf!

Max went on to say, “One of the things I really enjoy about our relationship, the three of us, is that we talk constantly. And we are brutally honest about what we need to do to get better as individuals, as managers, as an athlete, and as an organization. So that’s our intent. What we wanted to do was get especially the speculation for 2009 out of the way so we can concentrate on finishing this year and getting ready for next year. But I fully do anticipate the questions starting to come again.” I’m thinkin’ he’s dead nuts right on that one.

When Mr. Story was asked about the future of DEI he said, “As far as our 2009 program, obviously our goals have not changed. Four cars is our objective for next year: Certainly the No. 1 with Martin, the No. 15 with Paul Menard, the No. 8 with Aric Almirola, and Regan Smith in the No. 01. But we are all still working to round out sponsorship on the No. 01 car. The goal remains to run all four teams next year.” And that’s true.

But the real interestin’ stuff came from a former DEI employee who may have tipped what might happen with Truex in the long run. Dale Jr, was asked about his old running buddy re-signing and said, “I was happy for Martin and DEI. It gives Martin another year because he can see what the landscape is like next year. What he did was take the best opportunity and that was staying where he was at and maybe next year he will have a better opportunity somewhere else or maybe it will still be where he is at… Martin has a pretty good relationship with his team. He is the premier driver for that whole company. I think there were some changes made this silly season, but there wasn’t a lot of domino effect to it so there really didn’t open a whole lot of holes that would be interesting for anyone. So I think Martin made a wise decision to wait it out another year.” Hmmm. Kinda sounds like a timeline there.

With Truex good to go, now we’ll see if Paul Menard is gonna stick around the house of Earnhardt. Ya see, it’s his turn in the official DEI contract negotiations hot seat. Burn ‘em down, Paul!  

 

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