Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick Motrosports agreed to a five-year extension on Thursday that will keep NASCAR's most popular driver in the No. 88 Chevrolet through the end of the 2017 Sprint Cup season. Earnhardt has been with Hendrick since the start of the 2008 season and his contract was set to expire at the end of 2012.

"We're excited to have everything formalized and announced," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. "Junior and I had a handshake agreement months ago, and we let other people work out the finer points from there. It was as simple and smooth as it gets.

"My feelings haven't changed since the day he first signed with us. I'm committed as ever to putting him in the best possible situation to be successful and compete for wins and championships."

Earnhardt, 36, is currently riding a 117-race winless streak. He has one victory since joining Hendrick.

"It's great to have it all wrapped up so quickly and far in advance," said Earnhardt, who currently is ninth in the Sprint Cup standings. "Rick and I were on the same page from the first time we talked about it, so there wasn't any sense in waiting. There were never any questions or hesitations from either of us. It was just, 'Yeah, let's do it.'

"I'm really happy at Hendrick Motorsports and enjoy working with everyone here. The team's been very competitive this season, and we're all excited about the direction of things. I want to make sure we're giving our fans something to cheer about for a long time."

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