Patrick Zier / c. N.Y. Times News Service
Moorseville, N.C. (June 4,
Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress appear to
be close to agreement on a new contract that would keep them together through 2003.
It is believed Earnhardt would get around $1 million a year before his race purses are
factored in. Earnhardt, 48, is the second-winningest active driver on the Winston Cup
circuit and sixth all-time with 72 victories.
"We've started talking about it and it looks real positive, but nothing has been
decided, yet. We're continuing to talk," Childress said.
"I'd say there's a good chance it will happen, but we haven't agreed on anything
yet," Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt's current contract with Childress expires after 2000, and many felt he might
retire when it ran out.
That assumption, though, was based on Earnhardt winning a record eighth Winston Cup.
Also figuring into the equation is the fact there does not appear to be a ready
replacement for Earnhardt.
Reportedly, both Childress and Joe Gibbs put out feelers to Busch driver Matt Kenseth, but
he is going with Ford and Jack Roush.
Even if Childress and Kenseth had hooked up, he would not have taken Earnhardt's seat, at
least not immediately.
Earnhardt has struggled since Childress went to a two-car team in 1997 with Mike Skinner
as his second driver.
Earnhardt is in his 16th consecutive season driving for Childress and also drove part of
another year for him in 1981. He owns his own team which presently fields a Winston Cup
car for Steve Park, a Busch car for his son, Dale Jr., and a truck team featuring driver
Earnhardt has announced that Hornaday will move to the Busch circuit next year when Dale
Jr. goes full time in Winston Cup.
Despite those outside interests, Childress said Earnhardt remains committed to driving.
"He's proud of what his son is accomplishing, we all are, but he still wants to be
known as a driver, not a car owner, and he still has an intense desire to win,"
"He's been able to separate the two and he gives us 110 percent.
"I don't think there's any reason he can't continue to win if we give him good
"We have a mutual respect for each other and I think we'll be able to work things
out, but nothing's been done yet," Childress stressed.
Childress said he wasn't sure when an announcement would be made.
"This is the time when these things usually get done. I would expect something before
the end of the year, but I don't know if we'll have anything before the end of the
season," Childress said.