NASCAR: Earnhardt close to extension

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 26, 2011

By Mike Cranston
Associated Press
CONCORD ó Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains as popular as ever in the stands. Car owner Rick Hendrick remains a fan, too.
Minutes after a popular vote gave him the last spot in Saturday nightís NASCAR All-Star race, Earnhardt acknowledged heís had discussions with Hendrick Motorsports about extending his contract past 2012.
ěWeíve been talking on the phone a little bit, seeing what we think, and I am excited to be where I am,î Earnhardt said. ěFrom my heart, itís an amazing organization and just great, great people.î
Earnhardt has just one victory, in 2008, since teaming with Hendrick. Thatís also the only year heís made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in the No. 88 Chevrolet. But a crew chief change following a miserable 21st-place finish in the standings last year has changed Earnhardtís fortunes some.
While Earnhardtís winless streak is at 104 races, heís currently fourth in the Sprint Cup standings.
ěWeíve still got a lot of things that weíd really like to accomplish on the race track,î Earnhardt said. ěIf I get the opportunity to stick around, Iím definitely excited about that. Weíve just been talking about it, hopefully, I donít think weíll have any trouble working things out.î
Earnhardtís 10-year exemption into the All-Star field for winning the non-points event in 2000 ended this year. He raced in the preliminary Sprint Showdown, where the top two finishers qualified for the big race, but finished sixth.
It didnít matter, as a majority of the record 2.4 million votes gave Earnhardt the final spot in the 21-car field.
ěI know my fans worked pretty hard, and it meant a lot to them,î Earnhardt said. ěI appreciate the help.î