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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Join Hendrick Motorsports -- News Conference Transcript

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (June 13, 2007) - The following is a transcript from Wednesday’s (June 13, 2007) news conference, in which NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his plans to drive for Hendrick Motorsports in 2008:

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I'd like to thank everybody for being here today. It's a pretty packed crowd we've got. It's been a privilege to invite everyone back here to JR Motorsports for a very special announcement regarding my racing career. First before I get started I'd like to take a moment to thank the fans and the media for their patience and giving me the time I needed to make this important announcement and decision.

I've taken this as seriously as anything I've ever done before. And I could say this process has opened my eyes to many great people in the sport. I want to thank each of the team owners who brought me in, gave me their time and answered my questions. I want each of them to know that I value their friendships and am extremely appreciative for their honesty. When we announced a month ago that we would seek a new team for 2008 we were immediately asked for a timetable.

I had hoped to have a decision by midsummer but I had no idea how long this would take since I had never been in this position.

I wanted to take as much time possible to find the right team, the team that was right for me as a person and where I could compete for championships. As I sit here today, I can say with complete honesty that I have found and accomplished that goal. We talked with many teams, but one stood out above the rest and it became apparent to me the man I wanted to drive for. I've known him since childhood. He competes with integrity, and most importantly, he wins races.

I feel like this decision will give me that opportunity and hopefully I can give my fans what they expect and deserve and have a whole lot of fun along the way. And so today, it is with great honor that I introduce my new boss for 2008, Mr. Rick Hendrick.

THE MODERATOR: Without understating or over stating anything, this is huge. Start off by talking a little about how this evolved and what this means to you personally and to Hendrick Motorsports?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, it is a wow day. It is an awful special day for me, both from a personal standpoint and a professional standpoint. You know, in my whole racing career, this day is going to go down as one that I'm still having a hard time believing that we've got it done and it's happening.

It's just good to see the rest of the family here, Mrs. Earnhardt, Brenda, good to see all you folks. It's a day that's an exciting time for us to be able to bring a talent like Junior into our camp and to be able to take a lot of pleasure in trying to win championships for different people. But this one has got a special place in my heart. Because Ricky told me about four years ago, this was going to happen one day and I said, I don't think it's ever going to happen. So we are kind of bringing that to life today.

I can't tell you how special this is to me, how thrilled I am and how much pressure I feel to make sure that (Laughter) that he's going to win races. And I think he said it, too. We're going to have some fun along the way, because I've known him since he was a puppy, he and Kelley both. It's just something that's really special to me.

THE MODERATOR: I know there are a lot of people that are looking down smiling; Dale Sr., Ricky and Papa Joe all come to mind. Something we've heard told over the years, and this is a question for both of you, I’ve heard bits and pieces about a napkin story and a napkin contract perhaps. Can each one of you tell your version of the story?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I had been fortunate enough to be invited on a trip with Kenny Schrader around the Midwest to run some dirt tracks. And it was going to end up at Topeka, Kansas where Rick was racing and my dad was going to race with Schrader. I was running around with Schrader for the whole week and we get to Topeka and that's the first time I had ever met Rick, and he was introduced to me and he said, "Have you got a contract to drive for anybody." I wasn't even racing, you know. (Laughter) I was not even close.

But I thought it was a joke and he wrote down on a napkin, wrote a contract down on a napkin and I signed it. We were joking around. Obviously he's a pretty smart businessman, and I figured even if it was a joke I'd better sign it because it might come in handy one day. (Laughter).

THE MODERATOR: And that was in 1991. Rick if you still have that napkin, I've got a perfect home for it. What's your recollection of that and what took 17 years to get Dale Jr. to own up to the contract?

RICK HENDRICK: The first thing I was concerned with was how Dale let him go to the Midwest with Schrader. (Laughter) I felt like I kind of needed to protect him a little bit.

You know what was so funny about that, as how old were you then?


RICK HENDRICK: So we did that. And it was later I think, I don't know what year it was, but Ricky ran his first Busch race at Myrtle Beach and I went to the drivers meeting and I ended up standing beside Junior and I said, you remember you signed the contract with me.

He said, "I thought I forgot that.”

I said, no, I didn't forget it. I was just scared of your daddy. I wasn't going to try to enforce it. So we laughed and he said, well, I've got to have a Corvette for all of my team members, I said that's no problem. He remembered it and I remember it and we joke about it. Those kind of things are special memories.

MODERATOR: Did you get the Corvette thing written down in the contract?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Nah, that napkin was pretty small but it had the most important stuff on it.

It was a fun time.

MODERATOR: One of the obvious questions is you currently have a stable with four drivers and something has changed, can you talk about how this came together and what the situation is there at Hendrick Motorsports?

RICK HENDRICK: Kyle Busch and I, we had been negotiating an extension on his contract for the last, almost since the end of last year. And those conversations were moving along and it became pretty, you know, obvious to me that other people were talking to Kyle at the time and he was a guy in the garage area that at his age and his ability, which is an unbelievable talent; he had people picking on him just to make sure he was going to have an opening or an opportunity.

In the last discussions, we started talking around the Charlotte race trying to get things finished up and in those conversations; it became pretty obvious to both of us that maybe a fresh start might be good for both of us. He had unbelievable opportunities. You know, I'm trying to negotiate to get things done. I have an unbelievable opportunity and so you know with a tremendous amount of respect and putting a lot of effort into bringing him into the series, he's got so much opportunity. We decided it would be good for him to pursue those and for me to be able to pursue this opportunity with Junior.

But a commitment from both of us that we're committed to that 5 car to win the championship if we can finish the race and concentrate on that to the end of the year and that's what we intend to do.