Danica? Kelley's deal, Junior says - among other things
Thursday, Dec. 03, 2009
LAS VEGAS – Negotiations to bring Danica Patrick to NASCAR are ongoing with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s race team, but the driver said he has not participated in the talks and isn't certain she will drive for his Nationwide Series team.
JR Motorsports is co-owned by Earnhardt and Rick Hendrick, and both said the Patrick talks are being handled by Earnhardt's sister, Kelley. Earnhardt announced Thursday that Kelley Earnhardt and his cousin, Tony Eury Jr., have been given ownership stakes in the organization.
Kelley Earnhardt has been the driving force in the team's bid to bring Patrick to a part-time NASCAR ride.
"It's still sort of in the negotiation stages," he said. "Her and my sister are, I guess, managing that entirely. I have not been in any way, shape, or form involved."
Asked what the odds are of Patrick signing a deal, Earnhardt didn't pick a number.
"She's going to drive stock cars for somebody, someday," Earnhardt said. "It's just too much of a — look at all the Formula One guys over here checking (NASCAR) out — the writing is on the wall for her and several other guys.
"I think it's exciting. She would be great for our sport. She wants to see what's up."
Patrick earlier this week announced a three-year contract extension with Andretti Autosport, and that was believed to be the final hurdle for her to finalize any NASCAR plans. Earnhardt wasn't sure, though, that Patrick will be in NASCAR next season.
"It's going to happen when she wants it to happen," he said. "Whatever happens. Y'all know who has interest, and she has talked to our company and her and my sister are the only ones who have any dialogue."
One looming issue with JR Motorsports, though, is that the organization is still searching for full sponsorship for its flagship No. 88 car. Funding was pieced together this season, but a large chunk of money was lost when GoDaddy.com decided to move to the Sprint Cup Series as full sponsor for Mark Martin at Hendrick Motorsports.
Earnhardt on Thursday called the sponsorship search "a dire situation" and said it's likely new driver Kelly Bires will only be able to run half of the season. Earnhardt does not run JR Motorsports for profit, but instead created the organization as a way to help employee many of his family members.
He said he expects Eury Jr. to be the crew chief for the team next season. Eury was fired as Earnhardt's crew chief at Hendrick in June.