Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not backed down from his demand for majority ownership in his late father's company, his sister said Tuesday.
"Fifty-one (percent) is the right number because that gives us control," said Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, Junior's sister and business manager. "We'll take 75 or 95 or whatever we work out. At the end of the day, 51 gives you control.
"And we want control."
Earnhardt is in the final year of his contract with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and has made owning a share of the company a major issue of his negotiations. He raised the stakes even higher in February when he said he actually wanted 51 percent of DEI - not just a piece of the team.
Contract talks were briefly halted after Earnhardt Elledge had surgery last month to remove a tumor near her pancreas. She said she recently resumed talks with DEI president Max Siegel, and the brother-sister tandem is still asking for majority ownership.
The company has been run by Earnhardt's widow, Teresa, since his death in the 2001 Daytona 500.
"The idea is that the company would be left to the children, and we want to make sure that there is a formidable business left there and we can take on for our generation and then our children and then on and on," Earnhardt Elledge said. "It's very important to us. It's just a matter of us getting on the same playing field."
Earnhardt Elledge said her brother wants control of DEI so he can turn it into a championship contender. Although he's won races for DEI, the organization has not won a title since his consecutive Busch Series championships in 1998 and 1999.
He made the Chase for the championship in 2004 and 2006, but had an abysmal 2005 when he failed to qualify for the Chase after a career-worst season that saw two crew swaps. "The business is not where it could be over the last several years," Earnhardt Elledge said. "It's going to take something to get that back and we're in a position of time. We want Dale to drive 10 or 12 more years. We've got to get on the race track and win and get competitive and win championships. We have to have a situation that provides that for him." Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR's most popular driver and has leverage on his side. If he should leave DEI, every team in the Nextel Cup garage would fight to sign him and Budweiser, his longtime sponsor. Budweiser is closely associated with Junior and its contract with DEI expires at the end of this season. Earnhardt Elledge said the ownership stake was not the breaking point of negotiations, but that time could run out for a new agreement to be reached. Siegel has said he believes a decision can be made by May, and Earnhardt Elledge said the next two months are crucial. "There is no breaking point except a day, a timeline," she said. "We've said it to each other. Max and I are very honest with each other. It's like at some point, we've got to get to 2008. They do with sponsors and teams and drivers and we do. So at some point, the breaking point will be time. I'd say 30-45 days." AP-CS-04-10-07 1924EDT Waltrip charged after rolling car in accident SHERRILL'S FORD, N.C. - WALTRIP CHARGED: Michael Waltrip has been charged with reckless driving and failing to report an accident after hitting a telephone pole and rolling his car about a mile from his home in Sherrill's Ford, N.C., over the weekend.
Waltrip, who suffered scratches to his arms, hands and face and cuts on his finger, said he fell asleep at the wheel right before he wrecked his Toyota Land Cruiser early Saturday morning. He left the scene of the accident and walked the rest of the way home.
Police found him at his house several hours after finding the car at the accident scene.
"I am really embarrassed about the accident, but I feel fortunate that I wasn't hurt," the two-time Daytona 500 winner said Tuesday.
"For 25 years I have had a great driving record. I consider myself to be a courteous and safe driver on public roads. I never expected to fall a sleep behind the wheel of a car."
Police said the accident happened before 2 a.m. when Waltrip lost control of his SUV while driving around a curve and overcorrected. His car rolled and hit a utility pole, said Sgt. Brian Sharpe of the State Highway Patrol in Catawba County.
The vehicle, which was on its side, was abandoned and there was blood in it when police arrived. Witnesses reported seeing the driver crawl from the car and leave.
"He left the scene," Sharpe said. "We got the plate number, realized it was him and tried to locate him."
An attempt to locate Waltrip that morning was unsuccessful, but police reached him later Saturday. He was not arrested.
ON LEAVE: Kurt Busch's crew chief has taken a leave of absence to be with his wife as she battles cancer.
Troy Raker was named interim crew chief Tuesday for Busch at Penske Racing. He'll take over for Roy McCauley while he cares for his wife, Amy, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in February.
"There have been recent complications stemming from her long-term treatment and I feel as though I need to spend more time by her side," McCauley said. "Amy is receiving the best care possible and we're confident we will win the battle we are facing." Raker, who has a master's in engineering from Penn State, joined Penske in January as a chassis engineer.