Earnhardt a Free Agent

Months of speculation about Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended last week, when the veteran driver announced he is leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. His departure is slated for the 2007 season.

Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, his business manager and sister, had been attempting to negotiate a contract all year with DEI. Earnhardt Jr. was hoping to secure a 51 percent majority in DEI, and a deadline to complete the deal was announced for the end of the month. That was called short, though, when the parties realized that they could not come to agreement.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has spent all nine seasons of his NEXTEL Cup career driving for DEI and he came close to winning a Cup championship in 2003 when he won two races, scoring 21 top-10 finishes and an overall finish in third in the final points standings.