Johnson welcomes Junior to Hendrick Motorsports family
Jimmie Johnson says he's excited to have Dale Earnhardt Jr. join him in the Hendrick Motorsports stable in 2008.
MOORESVLLE, N.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. was talking about how he and future Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson would bring out the competitive nature in each other but race cleanly when owner Rick Hendrick interjected.
"I'm liking this already," he said.
Earnhardt doesn't expect his new teammates to be jealous about his moniker as NASCAR's most popular driver. He doesn't expect his presence at HMS to be a problem any more than that of Hendrick or his future teammates.
"He's going to fit in well," defending Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said on Wednesday. "It's really important to make sure all four teammates are pulling in the same direction and that they are willing to work for the same goals.
"Junior has made that commitment to the team. It's something he's looking forward to. He wants that team camaraderie. He wants the opportunity to win. We welcome him."
Johnson said he'd known about Hendrick's intention to sign Earnhardt for some time.
"And I felt we were in a good position to acquire Junior," he said. "There was a lot that needed to happen and a lot that needed to take place, and that stuff has all been going on behind closed doors.
"I'm excited to have him. He's going to be a great teammate and asset for us."
Johnson doesn't believe Hendrick has created a monster with too many stars.
"We've already proven that if there is a team that can deal with it, Hendrick Motorsports would be one of them," he said. "Even though we are teammates and we share everything, that part is set in stone.
"We have four different drivers with four different personalities. We're all able to be who we are and what we are. Rick doesn't regulate us."
Earnhardt said the toughest part about the past few weeks has been keeping Casey Mears, with whom he will share a shop next season, in the dark.
"We all hear the rumors, and obviously he had to have some worries as to whether he might be moved out," he said. "I haven't been able to talk to him. I wanted so bad to be able to talk to him and tell him it was OK."
Earnhardt finally talked to Mears on Tuesday night.
"He was really as happy and as relieved as I was," he said. "It was really cool just to talk to him as a future teammate. He is excited with what I can bring to the table. Me and him will be able to talk on our terms about our cars during the week and during the weekends."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.