Teresa Earnhardt has always been acknowledged as a smart businesswoman, taking the name Dale Earnhardt and putting it anywhere and everywhere, making her husband not only a great racecar driver, but also a great merchandise seller.
But her latest business decision may have her end up as a Sprint Cup Series champion team owner.
When Teresa let stepson Dale Earnhardt Jr. walk out the door at the end of 2007, many equated it to the Boston Red Sox letting Babe Ruth go to the New York Yankees.
Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI) was pronounced dead by others and Tony Stewart said that it would quickly become a museum.
For much of 2008, it certainly seemed that way.
As a company (across all four of their cars) they only managed 27 top tens and had zero wins. At seasons end the drivers ranked 14th, 16th, 27th, and 32nd in owner points.
Then Mark Martin and Paul Menard bolted for other teams and the US Army took their sponsorship to the newly formed Ryan Newman team, which left DEI with one driver (Martin Truex Jr.) and one sponsor (Bass Pro Shops) that was locked in for this year.
But it meant that Aric Almirola, who was tabbed to take over the No. 8 car after Martin’s departure, and that team were on shaky ground because of having no sponsors.
At the same time that DEI was crumbling, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates needed to make decisions about their future. Before anyone knew it an announcement was made that saw the formation of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (EGR).
The drivers would be Truex Jr. and his No. 1 Chevrolet and Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Target Chevy. Almirola did start the season in the No. 8 but lack of sponsorship closed that team down.
“Having a partner like Chip who is heavily involved on the competition side of business is an ideal situation for DEI,” said Teresa back in November after the merger was announced.
“He has a long history of managing championship teams in the IndyCar and Rolex Grand-Am Series and I share his passion and goals of winning races and ultimately championships in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series,” she continued.
“I think this is a case where we are stronger together than we are apart.”
Since then we haven’t heard or seen much of Teresa. Both Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates have been visible at the track and hands with the organization. Teresa, Ganassi said months ago, will appear at the track when she feels they have a chance to win.
Juan Pablo Montoya has come very close to doing so this year and yet she remains hidden. You’ll most likely find her connected to producing new merchandise and memorabilia for Dale Earnhardt Sr., the latest being the “Earnhardt and Elvis” themed cars and more.
She accompanied daughter Taylor Nicole to England where she drove her dad’s No. 3 car in a Goodwood Festival of Speed this past July.
The only things that DEI is holding these days are show cars, merchandise, memorabilia, and fan appreciation days.
And here we are, with just seven races remaining in the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup and Montoya is right in the thick of things, with a great chance to win the title. If that should happen, what a sight it would be for all the Teresa Earnhardt haters, some say.
Which begs the question, can and should Teresa Earnhardt be credited with Juan Pablo Montoya’s success?
The shop in which the company operates out of is a brand new facility; it was built after the two merged together. The engines come from Richard Childress, who already had an agreement with DEI before the merger with Ganassi, and through it that agreement stayed intact.
Then you have the powerhouse, Chevrolet, whom supports and is the vehicle of choice for the company.
All of which has proven to be a winning combination. Then add in a crew chief for Montoya, brought in last year before the merger, and has somehow managed to get the feisty Columbian to points race, and you have a championship contending team with seven races to go.
If the two teams hadn’t merged, the picture may look different.
The DEI driver of Truex Jr. sits 25th in points and has no wins, no top fives, and only three top tens. And just like Earnhardt Jr., Martin and Menard before him, Truex Jr. too will be leaving at season’s ends for another organization: Michael Waltrip Racing.
Montoya was the Ganassi driver hired in 2006, he made this year’s Chase, doesn’t have any wins, but has compiled five top fives and 15 top tens, which is fifth-best in the Series.
Montoya’s been there when it’s matter and has come close to pulling into victory lane on more than one occasion.
But perhaps the most compelling evidence of Teresa’s involvement, or lack thereof, would come from the media. Any article that has been published about Montoya recently has been littered with how much Chip Ganassi has done to turn things around.
That includes David Newton’s article titled: Chip Ganassi’s Passion Fuels Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Teresa’s name is mentioned only once, in the context of her co-owning the team, throughout the article. Newton writes that much of EGR’s success should go to Ganassi, not Teresa Earnhardt, Chip Ganassi.
All this talk about Ganassi and Sabates could have one think that Teresa is sitting at home or on her yacht during the season.
But who are we to judge and care what she does with her life? Maybe she’s just a private person and would rather watch from at home than on pit road.
Or, maybe she’s actually the brains of the operation; maybe she’s the one that has the whole company succeeding as it is and is letting Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates take the credit.
Who knows, maybe she’s the one that is calling all the shots from the background and has us all where she wants us.
Believing that she’s incapable, doesn’t care, while she’s actually been laughing at us all and polishing a place on her mantel for the Sprint Cup championship trophy.
If she and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates do win the championship with driver Juan Pablo Montoya, we can only hope that she’ll appear in Homestead-Miami or the awards banquet.
It certainly would be nice to see what she looks like.