Thursday, May 10, 2007

The facts about Junior-DEI split? Truth is, they're still evolving

At about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, I sat down in a chair at MediaComm in south Charlotte to talk to ESPN in Bristol, Conn., for a segment on spotters on its "Outside the Lines" show.

As we were getting set up, a producer there asked a question that changed my day instantly.

"Have you heard anything about a news conference at JR Motorsports tomorrow?" he said.
I had not, but from that moment on it was pretty much the only thing on the radar in the NASCAR world.

At the beginning, the first thing was to simply find out if a press conference was actually going to happen. The first round of calls that Jim Utter and I made got us nowhere. Nobody was answering the phone. Which is, often, a clue in itself.

At some point, we found out that a company that helps assemble and set up sound systems for NASCAR-related press events had a full crew on site at JR Motorsports setting up for an "event" on Thursday.

OK, that means you're not chasing a ghost. Something actually is going on. Now, the question becomes what's going on.

That's where things got off the track, a little bit, I think.

For the next couple of hours, just about anybody we could get on the phone who knew anything or who we thought knew anything were saying that Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. would leave Dale Earnahrdt to drive Cup cars at JR Motorsports next year.

Kelley Elledge said a month ago that JR Motorsports, which fields Busch and late model cars, isn't ready to be a Cup team. And it frankly would make no sense for Earnhardt Jr. to leave DEI for a start-up team that he'd own when the whole stated purpose of the contract talks has been to get him into a situation where he can win races and contend for championships.

Still, at that point in the late afternoon, that's what just about everyone was saying would be announced. As soon as we got official word that there would be a news conference at 11 a.m., I was also talking to people at Sirius NASCAR Radio about trying to arrange for me to be up there in Mooresville for the announcement and for Sirius to somehow cover it live.

Dave Moody was also on the air at that time on his Sirius show, and I also knew we needed to get something up on On the web, we put up the fact that a news conference was scheduled and that was about it. Moody, meanwhile, was hearing some of the same stuff from his "people" and started talking about the speculation and conjecturing about what might happen if that turned out to be the case.

Before long, other people were reporting the same thing. Some, were even citing Moody as their source, which shows that nobody else was getting their phone calls returned, either.

Meanwhile, Jim Utter and I were still talking trying to get people who actually know what's going on to tell us something. As the Truex/JR Motorsports/Hendrick story got out there, some folks started calling back to tell us that was not accurate.

By the time the deadline for the newspaper arrived, the story I had was that Earnhardt Jr. would announce he's leaving DEI and won't say where he's will go. Others had different information, and they wrote what they thought they knew. I wrote what Jim and I had.

That's how this business works. Sometimes it gets a little confusing, and the last thing you want to do is confuse readers, listeners and viewers. But sometimes, the information actually changes and with the 24-7 news cycle we have, it takes a while for the right stuff to catch up.


brett1963 said...

Sounds like you did the right thing. Rampant speculation sucks and I had to turn off my radio yesterday after a while. I respect the hell out of Dave Moody, but possibly in this case he may have stepped to far, I hate the term "my sources". Never having been in your guys' shoes though can't say I wouldn't have done the same thing.

As far as the "possibility" of JRM starting a Cup team? Don't like it. These owner/driver things just don't seem to work out very well. Even taking into account the gobs of sponsorship money Jr. will get it takes more than that. I like Dale Jr. a lot but never really felt he was the sharpest tool in the box and question his ability to run a two car Cup team. I'm sure he'll try to hire the best and brightest to help him out but I just don't see Jr. being able to do the same kind of things and have near the same success as a Hendrick, Evernham, Gibbs or Roush. I think he'll end up amongst and like this group Waltrip, Wood, Yates, McClure, Morganthaul, and Gordon.

Anonymous said...

Jr. plus gobs of sponsorship money plus engines, aero help etc from Hendrick= A better start-up than Mikey has had.

Bruce E Simmons said...

I listened to the press conference and posted what I heard there on my blog if anyone is interested:

Anonymous said...

Wherever Junior ends up will he demand 51% of that team? Maybe other team owners should think about it. Maybe Jeff Gordon should demand 51 % ownership in Hendrick Motorsports..We will see!!!

Anonymous said...

I really don't think that ownership was the primary issue. Winning championships and having the resourses to be competitive on a consistant basis is what I am hearing, along with the chance to grow his team just as his dad did while at the same time driving for RCR. I think Dale Jr. will listen to DW. He evidently respects his opionion as he requested him to be at the press conference. Enough time has past for the Black #3 to return. I have thought all along that GM was in the wings, waiting for this decision, we will see about that. Dale Jr. has done the best he could do driving average equipment. Isn't greed one of those 7 deadlys?

Anonymous said...

I agree that the 51% deal wasn't all about money. It was Dale Jr. TRYING to do what it took to win races. He wanted to be in a position to make decisions that would help the team win. Like he said in the press conference, it's not about the paycheck anymore. It's about winning.

Anonymous said...

I hope Jr. gets in the best equipment out there. Then he'll have nothing to whine about and we'll see how well he does.

Mike said...

My sources say Junior will drive the 6.7 car next year. Aside from that the rumors will get crazy between now and the official announcement.

Anonymous said...

Comparing the 51% ownership to J.G. demanding control at H.M.S. is junk. Gordon's name isn't on the company letterhead. Hendrick is running his racing team like it should be, and has put drivers in victory lane 66% of the time this season. DEI hasn't won a race in now over a year, and has rarely been in sniffing distance of the cup. Get a grip on reality and quit bashing.

Anonymous said...

The 51% wasn't about money is was about control of where the company was going....Nice job David as usual...chasing down a story isn't easy when there are so many blind alleys....Usually checking a media company is a good way...I'm in that business part time and we are usually ahead of the curve on stuff like that because we are the first to find out....sometimes being a show techy has it's advantages...cheers

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hey David I agree, I've been "hearing" rumors for a good while...I only caught a bit of the "press conferance", and enjoyed your direct approach when asking "Why Now? and the whole Timing"...It's time to put a tent over this Circus! # 5