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Stepmother wants Earnhardt to return

January 19, 2007|Jim Peltz

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s stepmother and team owner said Thursday that the team hopes to re-sign the NASCAR driver to a new contract next year despite strained relations.

"Absolutely," Teresa Earnhardt said when asked if it was her team's intention to re-sign the popular driver when his current three-year pact with Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) expires at the end of this year. Teresa is the widow of legendary stock car driver Dale Earnhardt.

Teresa was quoted in mid-December questioning the younger Earnhardt's resolve to remain a NASCAR competitor, fueling speculation that he might not return to DEI next year.

Junior -- who has won 17 Nextel Cup races in his career -- said last week he "didn't appreciate" her remarks, had not spoken to Teresa since the quote appeared and was uncertain whether he would stay with DEI.

He said that while he hoped to keep driving the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, the contract negotiations would "be very difficult" and acknowledged that his relationship with Teresa "ain't a bed of roses."

But Teresa said the two had spoken recently, and that "everything is proceeding and moving forward" with the contract talks.

"Every contract negotiation is complex, I don't care who you are," she said in a brief interview while in Los Angeles to promote "Dale," a documentary about the senior Earnhardt.

"You have to go through every detail," she said, declining to elaborate on the contract's major terms. "We both have high expectations."

The Daytona 500 opens the new Cup season Feb. 18.

-- JIM PELTZ

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