If you’re a NASCAR fan, today is gonna be a monumental occasion in the sport’s history. If you’re not a fan of NASCAR, then you’re about to witness a motorsports version of the “Alex Rodriguez Sweepstakes”. At a morning news conference (11:00am), Earnhardt is expected to announce he’ll leave DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) at the end of the 2007 season.
Let’s face it, whether sports enthusiasts are fans of NASCAR, everyone has heard of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He’s the most recognizable face in NASCAR. Heck, he’s the most recognizable face affiliated with Budweiser. Yeah …. that’s right, the biggest name and personality associated with the “King of Beers”. Earnhardt also maintains close endorsement ties with Wrangler, Kraft Foods, Drakkar Cologne, Enterprise Rental Car, Gillette, Nextel …. you get the picture. This is all about MONEY.
The question is where will this fallout take him? A logical destination is Richard Childress Racing, where his father was the organizational face. However, I suspect Childress will need deep pockets to secure Earnhardt’s services. Folks, we’re talking serious money …. Alex Rodriguez money.
Look at it this way, Earnhardt Jr. is more popular from an endorsement perspective than any MLB or NBA player. There’s not a single player in these leagues that can rival his endorsement status. Earnhardt Jr. is on the same level as Peyton Manning, when it comes to sponsorship and endorsement. Thus, this is a big potential prize for all NASCAR teams.
A wild card in this scenario is Hendrick Motorsports. Don’t rule them out. If Rick Hendrick could ad Dale Earnhardt Jr. to his stable, he would engage a virtual stranglehold on NASCAR’S marketing prowess. Remember, the only driver who merits a status similar to Earnhardt Jr., is Jeff Gordon. What would all the “hooligan” Earnhardt fans do if he joined “Team Gordon”?
I don’t foresee Earnhardt Jr. venturing out on his own, either. Recent history has proven to be cruel to owner/drivers. This formula simply doesn’t work. Thus, dismiss this possibility, now. He’s gonna be an employee …. for someone. Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon together …. that should bring an end to the beer can throwing.