Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not drive for DEI in 2008. He is now a free agent.
12:00 pm/ET - Bob Dillner throws out the possibility that Joe Gibbs Racing's #18 is a viable seat for Junior because of JJ Yeley's lack of success this season. And then John Roberts talks more about Hendrick and how Junior is rumored to have had several conversations.
Junior and Hendrick? That's just talent overload.
I really think everyone is just kidding themselves. RCR has two cars, and adding one more to that stable would be a nice addition.
My prediction? Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a Budweiser car for Richard Childress Racing next year.
This concludes the live blog... TGOM and myself will provide plenty of analysis and prediction over the next few days. Thanks for watching.
11:57 am/ET - Statement from Teresa:
"While we are very disappointed that Dale Jr. has chosen to leave the family business, we remain excited about our company's future. Dale and I built this company to be a championship contender, and those principles still apply. Dale Earnhardt Inc. will win ... This company has a great legacy and a bright future."
The press conference is now over. Let the analysis begin!
11:56 am/ET - "I'm going to look at everybody from a competition standpoint. But i want to feel comfortable with the teammates I'll have, feel welcomed by the employees there. It's got to give me the opportunity to be able to take care of my family.
I won't allow myself to try to narrow it down. I want to listen to everybody."
11:54 am/ET - "For me personally, the best thing I can do is be ridiculous about my effort. ... I know that when I'm behind the wheel, I'm racing, man. I think we can have a successful season. I know these types of things have happened before.
"They're too good of a bunch ... they deserve my full effort."
11:52 am/ET - "I don't want to confuse the focus of what kind of company (JR Motorsports) we've started here."
- talking about driving any car for JR Motorsports
11:50 am/ET - "I've always had a real hard time knowing what kind of weight I carry in this sport."
11:48 am/ET - "Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte are two guys I will go talk to ... I feel that will shoot me straight."
11:46 am/ET - Jr. does not want to make this a package deal with Truex. He would support Truex staying at DEI.
Jerry Bonkowski -- you're wrong.
11:42 am/ET - "I personally want to focus and go in another direction. I don't want to talk about the technical part of the contract. ... We never got close, we never got in the same ballpark.
"We'll continue to support DEI as we can. ... I'm just going to take my job as a race car driver somewhere else."
11:41am/ET - "I think our fans deserve to know that we won't be back at DEI." - KEE
11:40 am/ET - The Hendrick question.
"I've sought advice from several key individuals in the sport. I think the reason for this press conference was to address this as our final decision. We're looking to move forward."
He totally skipped the question. Why is he skipping over about talking to Rick Hendrick? Hmm... Jr. nation is sighing...
11:38 am/ET - "[Teresa] is mainly focused on keeping the morale as high as possible (at DEI).
"She thanked me for everything we've accomplished to this point." - Dale Jr.
11:36 am/ET - "I love my team, love the camaraderie. ... It really comes down to where I need to be and DEI's direction. ... It wasn't so much that motors weren't good enough or the cars weren't .... I made this decision to put myself in a better position for next year and down the road. .... I've got my family to consider ... I've got to put myself in position to take care of things that need to be taken care at that age."
11:34 am/ET - Concerned about fans being disappointed with a change?
"I don't expect my fans to be worried about [switching from a Chevy to a Ford]."
"I feel like over the last years or two ... we haven't been able to put up the results that we were capable of doing."
11:31 am/ET - And we're back!
"I drove for DEI my entire career. There's something to be said for that. ... I really wanted to, ya know, have a larger more personal interest than driving with DEI. ... We danced around that bush for quite a long time. I think the negotiations went deeper, longer, and more in depth than with any other owner and driver." - Dale Jr.
11:29 am/ET - Question about going to RCR "There's a lot of logical scenarios people are going to put together."
and the SPEED tv feed just cut out.... and now its back.... no audio though.... please hold folks while technical difficulties are solved....
11:27 am/ET - "We jointly let [our sponsors] know what was happening." - Kelley Earnhardt Elledge
11:25 am/ET - "Piece of mind, satisfaction ... I'm seeking to have that piece of mind. That comfort can really be an asset to somebody." - Dale Jr.
11:23 am/ET - "We're going to listen to everybody. ... I want to give my self the best chance to be successful. I don't ever want to make this decision again. ... I like Chevy's, I love driving them."
11:21 am/ET - Had DEI become TEI? "It may not be the exact thing my dad wanted. But I believe it can be successful." - Dale Jr.
yeah.. right... then why is Dale Jr. leaving?
11:19 am/ET - "I was anticipating signing a new contract with DEI. We've done them before. This was probably ten times the effort. ... It was really, really hectic and difficult."
"We never even got close." - Dale Jr.
11:16 am/ET - Timetable for getting something done? "We're just going to really look at everything clearly. ... We want to give our employees here (at JR Motorsports) the best opportunity.
"There is time to start our own Cup effort. ... We have our work cut out for us to engage other teams. Our first choice would be to drive for another top competitive team." - Kelley Earnhardt Elledge
11:15 am/ET - "We support DEI in the future. The company is still part of our family. It's what my father built and conceived. This decision is solely based on my driving career."
11:14 am/ET - "It was really hard to talk to those guys today." -- Dale Jr. about telling DEI goodbye.
11:13 am/ET - Martin Truex Jr. is not a part of this discussion or situation.
11:12 am/ET - "Teresa will likely want the 8 to stay at DEI."
11:11 am/ET - "It's just the time for us to prepare for 2008." - Kelley Earnhardt Elledge
11:09 am/ET - "We have a great relationship with Budweiser. I enjoy driving Chevrolets ... I feel that driving a Chevrolet is what will fit me best."
11:07 am/ET - "I'm sort of split down the middle. I've drove for DEI my entire career. We've done a lot of great things. I believe that company will do a lot of great things and continue to surprise people."
"The other half of me is really excited to see what kind of opportunities there might be." - Dale Jr.
11:06 am/ET - "I can honestly say that we weren't really close with what we both had in mind." - Dale Jr.
11:05 am/ET - "We will continue to work together on many projects (DEI and JR Motorsports). If i may speak openly to my fans, please understand that my decision is one I make for my career. My motivation when I climb in my race car each week is to please my fans."
11:04 am/ET - "Trust me that DEI will come out of this successfully. What team I drive for next season, I don't know." - Dale Jr.
11:03 am/ET - "After a year of intense negotiations, between DEI and Jr Motorsports, we decided its time to move on and drive for another team in 2008."
11:01 am/ET - SPEED is now live. Dale Jr. and his sister Kelley sitting at the podium.
10:58 am/ET - Just a couple of minutes away now from SPEED's live coverage of the "presser" as TGOM says. Be sure to stay tuned for plenty of analysis and our best guesses here at the FanHouse where Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive in 2008.
The big question: what exactly is Dale Earnhardt Inc. without Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Anything? Anything?
10:54 am/ET - The AP is reporting this will be nothing more than an announcement of free agency to any all teams -- that drive Chevrolets.
"We worked really hard, but we were never close," said Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10:47 am/ET - Here's what we've heard so far about this saga, a summary of the speculation:
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. will drive for JR Motorsports next season
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. visited DEI this morning to tell everyone goodbye
- They will drive Hendrick chassis and engines
10:31 am/ET - John Roberts and Bob Dillner do a brief break-in to SPEED coverage, just telling viewers the press conference will be live in less than a half hour. Roberts calls it "expected to announce Junior is leaving DEI" and Dillner says that this sets up "one of the biggest free agent signings in the history of motorsports.
10:29 am/ET - Good morning, folks, and welcome to the FanHouse. In case you aren't able to sit in front of the boob tube to catch today's landmark announcement from Dale Earnhardt Jr., the AOL NASCAR FanHouse will have you covered.