Just days after expressing his displeasure with his stepmother, DEI team owner Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., said this weekend that fans need to cut her some slack.
Last weekend at Michigan International Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. criticized his stepmother, saying he was “not all that surprised" that a deal could not be reached to transfer his familiar #8 to Hendrick Motorsports next season. "She either feels too personal about the number, or the rift between me and her is too personal," he said. "It's upsetting as hell and unfortunate, but that's just what happens sometimes. I knew I wasn't going to get the number a long time ago."
Earnhardt Jr. called Teresa’s demands “just ridiculous,” adding, "Maybe it's sort of a blessing in disguise to make a clean break. If I was to get the #8 and allow Teresa to still have control over it, I would still have to deal with it. That is not what I wanted. I have to let it go."
Earnhardt tempered his comments Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, however, saying, “It’s about time to give Teresa a break. She makes the decision on the number, because she owns it. And as much as I am disappointed and frustrated over the fact that I don't get to keep driving the #8, the stuff I read on the internet --the remarks about her -- I don't think anybody deserves that.
“If people just take a step back and look, she hasn't done anything intentionally that is detrimental to me. I have a good future. I have a good opportunity in my hands. She is doing what she needs to do. I think everybody needs to lay off a little bit, because she was married to my Daddy, and I know he wouldn't be too happy about…what is being said about her.
“It bothers me a little bit,” said Earnhardt. “I hate to see somebody crucified on the internet like Teresa has. It is just hard-core, man. People have been really, really rude, and really over the line -- way over the line -- on some of the things that have been said. Nobody deserves that, and it just isn't fair.”
In a related story, SPEED's Bob Dilner reported yesterday that Robert Yates Racing has asked NASCAR for permission to transfer its #38 to Hendrick Motorsports next season, for Earnhardt Jr. to drive. If approved, the transfer would allow Earnhardt to combine his current #8 with his father’s legendary #3.
There has been no confirmation of the report from either Yates or Hendrick, and no word on what number David Gilliland would use in 2008. Robert Yates Racing still has the rights to the #28, which it has not used since 2002.
Hornish To Ramp Up NASCAR Effort: Roger Penske said Saturday that Sam Hornish Jr. will run at least half of this season’s final 10 Nextel Cup Series races, as a prelude to a possible Rookie of the Year bid in 2008.
Hornish's first Cup race will likely come at New Hampshire International Speedway on September 16th, one week after the 2007 IRL IndyCar season finale. Penske said, "That's the game plan right now. Obviously, he's got to qualify, but he did a good job at Michigan, and if there is a chance to run every week, we'll see. I told him the more experience you get the better you're going to be.”
Haas Pleads Guilty To Tax Fraud: Haas CNC Racing owner Gene Haas has pleaded guilty to what the Internal Revenue Service called “deceptive and elaborate tax evasion schemes” that defrauded the government of $34.3 million in taxes.
Haas, who also owns Haas Automation, the nation’s largest machine tool manufacturer, changed his plea to guilty today, agreeing to serve a two-year jail term and pay a $5 million fine, fraud penalties of 40% and interest amounting to more than $70 million. The plea deal must still be approved by a Federal District Court judge.
Haas CNC Racing General Manager Joe Custer is now listed as the owner of the teams.
Villeneuve To BDR #36?: Bill Davis Racing General Manager Mike Brown confirmed this weekend that 1997 Formula One World Driving Champion Jacques Villeneuve is the leading candidate to replace Jeremy Mayfield in the team’s #36 Nextel Cup Toyota next season.
Villeneuve will undertake a six-week test program, with plans to take part in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck and ARCA events at Talladega in October.
“That’s what we hope to do, (and) that’s what he feels like he’d like to do,” said Brown of Villneuve’s Nextel Cup aspirations. “Obviously, the whole NASCAR program is new to him, so we’re going to put together an aggressive test program for him. Obviously, he’s got to go through the validation process with NASCAR, so we’re looking at places we can run him in trucks, maybe in the ARCA series. (It will be) an aggressive test program, not only with the trucks, but with the COT.”
Brown said 360 OTC is not expected to return as sponsor next season, and team owner Bill Davis said he is still working on a sponsorship deal for Villeneuve. "It's not that hard to build racecars, said Davis. "It's getting them funded that's the hard part." Davis will joins us on Sirius Speedway to discuss his plans for 2008 today (Monday) at 3:40 p.m. ET.