Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway is reporting today that Teresa Earnhardt has enlisted the services of Bear, Stearns and Company to find a buyer -- or at least a major financial investor -- for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Bear Stearns is an investment bank, securities trading and brokerage firm based in New York City, and has been charged with finding a buyer for the entire operation. Barring that, Earnhardt is said to be interested in selling at least a minority interest in the team.
DEI President of Global Operations Max Siegel declined to comment on the story when contacted earlier today.
DEI finds itself at a competitive crossroads, with Mark Martin leaving the team at season's end for a new ride with Hendrick Motorsports. Martin Truex Jr. is unhappy with the recent performance of his Bass Pro Shops-sponsored Chevrolet, and has not yet signed the contract extension team officials announced more than four months ago. He currently ranks 14th in championship points, but is likely to fall further behind when NASCAR announces penalties this week for the roofline violation found on Truex's car in opening inspection at Daytona. Team officials admitted last week that they may be forced to trim their roster by one next season if sponsorship cannot be found for Regan Smith's #01 Chevrolet, and reports have surfaced that Paul Menard may also be shopping around his Menard's sponsorship for next season.
DEI President of Global Operations Max Siegel declined to comment on the story earlier today.
While the future of DEI appears uncertain, many of the other driver/sponsor dominoes are beginning to fall into place. Tony Stewart is expected to announce a 2009 move to Haas-CNC Racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in three weeks. Reliable sources tell Sirius Speedway that Stewart will also announce sponsorship from Office Depot and Old Spice as part of a new, multi-year package with Haas CNC, and that Penske Racing’s Ryan Newman will join him as a teammate, with sponsorship from Jack Daniels. That surprise move comes as the result of an enviable situation at Richard Childress Racing, which now has five potential sponsors for next season, and only four teams.
Sirius Speedway has learned that UPS will move from Michael Waltrip Racing’s #44 Toyota to the quarterpanels of Clint Bowyer’s #07 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in 2009, leaving Jack Daniels in search of a new driver. That driver will be Newman, who is set to sign-on with Stewart at Haas CNC after a difficult 2008 season littered with mechanical failures and poor performance.
It appears to be a two-man race for Newman’s soon-to-be-vacant seat at Penske Racing, with Casey Mears and David Stremme in the running. The Mears-Penske connection is well established, with Casey’s uncle, Rick Mears, winning multiple Indianapolis 500 titles with car owner Roger Penske. Stremme, however, is making a strong bid for the ride, doing yeoman work as Penske Racing’s test driver this season. He also stands ninth in NASCAR Nationwide Series points for Rusty Wallace, Inc., despite starting only 16 of 17 races.
In fact, Stremme’s name is being linked with as many as three different Cup openings next year.
While Stewart’s Indy announcement will help to solidify the driver/team lineup for 2009, there are still a number of questions looming over the Sprint Cup Series garage. Scott Riggs and Johnny Sauter will presumably be looking for new rides once Stewart and Newman set up shop at Haas CNC Racing. Truex remains questionable for a return to DEI. David Reutimann, Reed Sorenson, David Ragan, Paul Menard and Dave Blaney are all in the final year of their respective contracts, though Roush Fenway Racing confirmed this weekend that Ragan will return in 2009. Dario Franchitti’s NASCAR career is currently on hold, after his #40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge was parked for lack of sponsorship last week.
It looks like Silly Season may drag on a bit longer, after all.