Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do; Trust Comes Hard for Drivers Making Offseason Moves

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do; Trust Comes Hard for Drivers Making Offseason Moves

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

RICHMOND, Va. - When Brian Vickers announced he was leaving Hendrick Motorsports midway through the 2006 season, the race team quickly distanced itself from the driver.

He no longer was privy to any details about his Chevrolet and he was banned from team meetings. Despite being shunned, he managed to win at the Talladega Superspeedway and post six other top-10 finishes before joining Red Bull Racing and Toyota.

Now it's time for Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and J.J. Yeley to be the outsiders at their own race teams.

All three are headed for new rides in 2008, and for Busch and Yeley, the change includes a new manufacturer. That puts their current employers in a tough spot. Running up-front comes with a risk of giving away company secrets.

So far, all three are saying the right things and racing hard. So far, they've tried to keep their focus on this year, not next. So far, everyone's getting along.

So far.

Breaking up is never easy. Joe Nemechek was told in advance he wouldn't return to Felix Sabates team in 1999 and Nemechek responded by winning at the New Hampshire International Speedway. Sabates never flinched; Nemechek was still fired.

Earnhardt heads into tonight's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at the Richmond International Raceway in 13th place in the standings.

The top 12 after Richmond move into the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup.

He's 128 points behind and needs either Kurt Busch or Kevin Harvick to have colossal problems to have a chance. If not for two blown engines since his announced departure from DEI in May, Earnhardt probably would be safely in stock car's playoffs.

The son of seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt doesn't have any answers, especially since he doesn't spend much time at the family's shop.

"I haven't been over to DEI that often," Earnhardt said. "They have been making great power and I keep praising them the best I can on the TV. …

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