Hendrick, Junior working on extension
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he expects to have the extension of his NASCAR Sprint Cup contract with Hendrick Motorsports completed in the next few days.
"I feel pretty good where I am at and really happy who I am working with," Earnhardt said. "You have to be comfortable in your work environment, and I feel good with the people that I’m around. I trust (team owner) Rick (Hendrick). My sister (Kelley Earnhardt), who's a bit of my business manager, she gets along with everybody working there. They're working through a new contract, and all that stuff should be done in the next few days."
During an interview Saturday night before the Irwin Tools Night Race, Earnhardt Jr. said he "made the right decision" when he accepted the ride at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. Earnhardt said earlier that he wanted to renegotiate his contract this season so it would not be a distraction when it expired at the end of the 2012 season.
The new contract is also expected to be for five years, which would carry Earnhardt through the 2017 season. The driver affectionately known as Junior would be 43 at the end of that term.
"I'm real excited to get that behind me and start moving forward again and try to get better," he said. "Me and (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) have been working together for about a year now, and that's something we want to improve on. And we think we got some things we can do better. Hopefully, we'll be able to put it out there on the racetrack."
Earnhardt has made tremendous progress with Letarte at the helm this season. He is ninth in the points standings.
With two races before the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Earnhardt appears to be a likely candidate as he carries a 39-point cushion between himself and 11th-place Brad Keselowski. Although there are still 12 races remaining in the season, Earnhardt has matched the numbers he posted last year and improved his average finish by 4.6 positions per race.
While the finishes have improved, the two areas still missing from a complete turnaround for the No. 88 team are consistently leading laps and consequently contending for wins. Earnhardt has led only 50 laps this season and has not been to Victory Lane in 117 races.
However, the next two tracks on the schedule — Atlanta Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway — are two of Earnhardt’s favorites. Combined, the two tracks have produced four of Earnhardt’s 18 wins. Atlanta is where Earnhardt has his second-best average finish (12.5) and has posted his fourth-most laps led (743). Earnhardt’s three wins at Richmond are only topped by his five Talladega victories.