Moves to get Earnhardt Jr. have begun

Beer sponsorship is among the issues for teams making pitches.
Monday, May 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:10 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

CONCORD, N.C. — If Dale Earnhardt Jr. ends up at Joe Gibbs Racing, team officials are adamant it won’t be with sponsor Budweiser.

Bobby Ginn, however, has no problem with a beer sponsorship and is still hotly pursuing NASCAR’s most coveted free agent.

And Richard Childress? He had nothing to say on the subject Saturday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

With Hendrick Motorsports apparently out of the Earnhardt sweepstakes, Hendrick has four drivers under contract and claims he isn’t looking to drop any of them, three other Chevrolet teams have emerged as the front-runners to sign NASCAR’s most popular driver.

JGR could be the leading candidate, but owner Joe Gibbs insisted Saturday night he won’t accept a beer sponsorship at his family business. Earnhardt is closely associated with Budweiser, his longtime sponsor, and the company can leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. with him at the end of the season.

Ginn, meanwhile, has room for Earnhardt and has planned to expand to four teams since taking over majority ownership of the team known as MB2 Motorsports last season.

The Florida-based land developer said several weeks ago he would pursue Earnhardt, and Ginn Racing has emerged as a viable option through on-track performance by Mark Martin and Ginn’s desire to field a winner.

Ginn said Saturday he’s had “exploratory conversations” with Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, but has yet to speak to Earnhardt himself. He said he never would have taken it this far if he didn’t think his organization was a perfect fit.

“If I had no ability to do it, I wouldn’t have embarrassed myself or wasted his time,” Ginn said. “I believe we can support it and I believe he wants to win and I want to win. You put two people together that are damned determined to get there, that’s a combination that has generally led to successes.

“I don’t want to bring him here, if I had any opportunity to do it, and make him believe he can’t win a championship.”

Jay Frye, general manager at Ginn, is a St. Louis native who once worked for Anheuser-Busch, the parent company for Budweiser. Ginn believes Frye’s past relationship with A-B, and Ginn’s entertainment ties to the resorts he owns and golf tournaments he hosts makes it a perfect fit.

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