Earnhardt, Hendrick agree to extension
The Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Hendrick Motorsports partnership, which hasn’t gone as well as many observers expected, will continue for the next six seasons.
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Earnhardt Jr. has agreed to a five-year extension of his contract, a decision that will keep the third-generation driver behind the wheel of Hendrick cars through the 2017 season.
“We’re excited to have everything formalized and announced,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “Junior and I had a handshake agreement months ago, and we let other people work out the finer points from there. It was as simple and smooth as it gets.
“My feelings haven’t changed since the day he first signed with us. I’m committed as ever to putting him in the best possible situation to be successful and compete for wins and championships.”
Earnhardt, 36, has 18 Sprint Cup wins but hasn’t celebrated in victory lane since June 2008 at Michigan International Speedway. He has rolled through crew-chief and personnel changes in a roller-coaster-like ride at Hendrick, at times showing promise and at times showing struggle.
Entering Sunday’s race at Atlanta, Earnhardt is ninth in Sprint Cup points and on target to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“It’s great to have it all wrapped up so quickly and far in advance,” Earnhardt said. “Rick and I were on the same page from the first time we talked about it, so there wasn’t any sense in waiting. There were never any questions or hesitations from either of us. It was just, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’
“I’m really happy at Hendrick Motorsports and enjoy working with everyone here. The team’s been very competitive this season, and we’re all excited about the direction of things. I want to make sure we’re giving our fans something to cheer about for a long time.”
Earnhardt signed with Hendrick in June 2007 for the 2008 season, a contract that was scheduled to expire at the end of the 2012 season.
Although Earnhardt has not reached the level of competitiveness he and his fans might have anticipated at Hendrick, there have been no hints he might consider jumping to another team.