The futures of Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kevin Harvick, two of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, maybe taking shape. After it was proclaimed that Toyota would join the entourage of NASCAR
manufacturers in 2007, the dominoes may have been set to fall.
Harvick became the late Dale Earnhardt’s successor after the tragic accident at Daytona in 2001, and enjoyed accelerated success as he won his first race in only his third start. So much prosperity was expected out Harvick. He has enjoyed five wins, but he comes up short when his accomplishments are compared to other fellow young guns such as Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, and Matt Kenseth.
When Harvick failed to qualify for the Nextel Cup Chase For The Championship for the second consecutive season, it instigated speculation of his future with Richard Childress Racing, where he has been employed since 2000. Harvick became disgruntled with the performance of his team and wasn’t reticent about publicly expressing his displeasure. After he was crashed at Bristol last August, there were reports that Harvick refused to get back behind the wheel of the scathed #29 Chevy and race for points. Eventually, Harvick would cooperate, but the damage may have already been inflicted. Both Childress and Harvick are complied to the fact that they’ll remain together for the duration of their contract which expires at the end of 2006. But what about after that? Recently, Harvick stated that he would sit down with Childress in April to discuss his future.
With Toyota’s entry into the Nextel Cup lineup, it’s no secret that they’ll be nipping at the heals of the top free agents in NASCAR, which includes Kevin Harvick. Will the offer that Toyota is expected dangle in front Harvick be too winsome, or will loyalty to Childress override the temptation? It all depends on the performance at RCR from now until April. The pressure will be on Childress more so than Harvick, as Harvick has made it clear that he’ll move on if he feels that he can get better results in another venture.
Even if Harvick decides to move on after 2006, there is somebody who covets the wheel of the famous GM Goodwrench Chevrolet. Earnhardt Jr has not been enigmatic in stating his intentions to drive for Richard Childress. What seemed like only a fantasy to some hardcore Earnhardt fans not so long ago, has now become a likelihood.
Earnhardt Jr has carried the flag at DEI for years now, but after a dreadful season in 2005, his devotion to DEI has been in question. Is that really where he wants to spend the rest of his career? Deep down, Earnhardt Jr has yearned to be the first to grab the wheel of the black # 3 since his father’s death. He’s casually talked about it for years now, but last week it was clear that he intends to drive the #3 for Richard Childress Racing. “I really think that’ll happen,” Earnhardt said, “I’ve informally talked to Richard, just so he knew I wanted to do that.”
When it will happen is still an uncertainty, but Earnhardt Jr concedes that it will be after he’s achieved everything he wants to accomplish at DEI, which is winning the championship. He says he’s dedicated to DEI, but when you are talking about driving for someone else, your devotion will be questioned.
There are various ways that these rumors can play out. Maybe they are just rumors and Harvick will sign on with RCR long-term. Maybe Earnhardt Jr really is committed to DEI.
What if Harvick decides to move on to a Toyota-based team, that seat at RCR will be empty. That empty seat will begin to look more and more attractive to Earnhardt Jr. Is it really too far-fetched to believe that Earnhardt Jr would ditch DEI and Budweiser to drive the black #3? Or could he bring Budweiser with him? I’m sure Anheiser Busch wouldn’t oppose to painting a Budweiser car black.