Twelve months ago Dale Earnhardt Jr. was hoping for a quick and painless end to a horrendous year. And Dale Earnhardt Incorporated was preparing for their future, excited by the possibilities and ready to prove their critics wrong.
The articles with questions of "What will become of DEI?" and comments from many saying "Stupid move" and "They should never have let him go," must have played coasters on Teresa Earnhardt's desk.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had announced his departure and DEI had just landed Mark Martin so spirits were high, "While we are very disappointed that Dale Jr. has chosen to leave the family business, we remain excited about our company's future. Our aggressive expansion and diversification plans have not changed. This company has continued to thrive since Dale left us in 2001, and it will thrive following today's announcement."
"Dale and I built this company to be a championship-contender, and those principles still apply. Dale Earnhardt Inc. will win, and we have other extremely talented drivers and hundreds of employees that are dedicated to the programs we founded. This company has a great legacy and a bright future, built on loyalty, integrity, and commitment." Was the statement from Teresa Earnhardt.
Scoreboard says: DEI 0 - HMS 1.
Now one year later the future that was so highly talked about is nothing to talk about at all.
Martin Truex Jr., the man who was dubbed as DEI's pick-me-up guy, has failed to win a race in over a year or qualify for the Chase. He's fifteenth in points and only has eight top ten finishes. But in July he still managed to make headlines at Daytona when his car failed inspection. Both his crew chief and car chief were suspended along with a monetary and point's fine.
That very same weekend, Mark Martin announced his departure from DEI by season's end. He too wanted to win a championship and in order to do that he knew the best chance was with Hendrick Motorsports. Yes, Teresa, it's deja vu, you've lost another driver to Hendrick Motorsports.
DEI 0 - HMS 2, but whose counting?
But there was some good news for DEI that came out of the Coke Zero 400. Driver Paul Menard, who gets more airtime because of the company name plastered on his hood then his driving, won the pole. He led nineteen laps before fading and once again becoming a non-factor.
However that's been the only highlights for a company that's been all talk and no action. They were going to do this and buy that. Even trying to convince us by going as far as to throw the media a party in New York City last November, but I'm compelled to ask, where are the results?
When was the last time that we looked in excitement as one of their drivers made a competitive move or challenged for a win?
They merged engine departments with Richard Childress Racing but it was only Childress' drivers that would surge into the title hunt while Truex and company surged into the background.
The general consensus was that Mark Martin would help lead the re-building and mentor Truex Jr. and what will be the future of DEI in Aric Almirola. When it comes down to it, in 2009 all that will matter is Truex Jr. and Almirola, with the two other cars just fighting to remain existent.
Yes two, I almost forgot Regan Smith and the 01 car but so have the rest of you.
Smith and team have struggled in performance and in finding sponsorship. With a failing economy, more and more sponsors pulling out of the sport and not a lot of money flowing, a big name buyer is not going to come knocking on team's doors that's thirty-third in points. It's just a matter of time before the shop doors close just as Chip Ganassi had to do to his no. 40 team.
The end may also be in sight for Paul Menard, whose sponsor is Menards and there have been quiet whispers for a while that they may be looking elsewhere. Why wouldn't they? Currently twenty-seventh in points there's not a lot to cheer for and performance is pitiful, with no hope in sight.
That goes for both Menard and Dale Earnhardt Inc.
This was a company that contended for wins and championships. They challenged anyone to beat them on the restrictor plate tracks for years and had a solid and budding Nationwide Series program. It all ceases to exist this year as does Teresa Earnhardt, but that's not really shocking.
The only time she talks is when unveiling the newest Dale Earnhardt collector's piece however even then her daughter is doing the spotlight work. Where is Teresa? Does anyone remember what she looks like? Is she at all concerned with the state of DEI?
It's a great company that has dedicated employers which deserve better but there seems to be something a bubble in the paint scheme.
The drivers and sponsors that used to be the faces of Dale Earnhardt Incorporated are gone and the current ones cannot be happy with their current state.
With nine races left in the season it appears that DEI has lived up to the negative expectations and just as Earnhardt Jr. was a year ago, they must be hoping for a quick end so they can re-group during the off-season.
Oh why Teresa, Oh why DEI, has thou continued to disappoint us?