Commentary

It's all Teresa's fault!? No, it really isn't

Updated: April 13, 2009, 2:09 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Blame Game. Children learn it at an early age and it carries over in many through adulthood.

If you can blame somebody else for something that is your doing, then it apparently is easier to sleep at night. To successfully pull it off you must make it seem credible, which means there's a bit of truth mixed in with a lot of deception.

Teresa Earnhardt is a victim of this game.

She's been blamed for everything that has gone wrong at Dale Earnhardt Inc., now Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, since her famous husband was killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

She was blamed for not giving her stepson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., great equipment even though his current Cup series win count stands at 17 with DEI and one with Hendrick Motorsports.

She was blamed for running Earnhardt Jr. out of the organization his father built because she wouldn't give him at least 51 percent of it during the last contract negotiations. Some even blamed her for not dividing the company evenly among all four Earnhardt children.

Some of you probably blamed her because the toilet paper wasn't replaced in the gift shop during your visit to DEI.

Teresa Earnhardt had a big target on her back last week when EGR announced that the No. 8 Sprint Cup car driven by Aric Almirola has been parked until sponsorship is found. Apparently, it is her fault the economy has gone bad as well.

Some of you strongly suggested she was wrong not to give Earnhardt Jr. the number as he requested when he moved to HMS.

Some very strongly suggested she is running the company into the ground, saying Martin Truex Jr. will be next out the door and arguing all the things above for the umpteenth time.

Nobody ever blames Earnhardt Jr.

Maybe it's time.

Or at least time to recognize his share of the blame.

Earnhardt
AP Photo/Adam NadelDale Earnhardt, right, could have left DEI to anyone he wished. His will gave ownership to his wife, Teresa, who was his partner in launching the team from the beginning.

For the record, Dale Earnhardt didn't leave DEI to Earnhardt Jr. or any of his children. He left it to Teresa, the woman who helped him establish the organization, the woman he was married to from 1982 to 2001, which was much longer than he'd been around any of his children.

He could have changed his will at any time had he thought Teresa wasn't capable. He didn't. He left DEI to his third wife, whom he considered a smart business partner.

"I would rather have been married one time and lived happy ever after, but it didn't happen that way," Earnhardt said a few years before his death. "I was fortunate to have found Teresa."

Unfortunately for Teresa, there was a longtime rift with Earnhardt Jr. Even more unfortunate for her, Earnhardt Jr. became so popular that he could do no wrong in the eyes of his fans.

That gave him a power he believed was strong enough to force his stepmom into giving him what he wanted.

When he didn't get, it he left.

Nobody is saying Earnhardt Jr. was wrong to leave DEI for an organization he believed would make him a championship contender, although that hasn't panned out yet.

But if he truly was concerned about the welfare of the company, which not only lost him but sponsor Budweiser, would he have bailed?

And was his equipment really that bad? Mark Martin, who also drives for HMS now, said the No. 8 he piloted at DEI last season was a "championship-caliber team."

Martin also noted that Jack Roush didn't give him the No. 6 he drove for 19 seasons before leaving three years ago and that he never expected him to.

Teresa shouldn't have been expected to give Earnhardt Jr. the No. 8 any more than she should have been expected to give him 51 percent -- or even 1 percent -- of the organization.

She shouldn't be expected to turn it over to him now.

Do you think Rick Hendrick would give Jimmie Johnson 51 percent of Hendrick Motorsports if he threatened to leave? Or the No. 48? Hardly.

What happened at DEI was all about power. Earnhardt Jr. believed he had more than Teresa, and when she didn't budge, he bolted. His fans sided with him, making stepmom public enemy No. 1.

[+] EnlargeTeresa Earnhardt Dale Earnhardt jr
AP Photo/Terry RennaDale Earnhardt Jr. won 21 times in a DEI Nationwide Series car and 17 times in the DEI No. 8 at the Sprint Cup level. He has won one Sprint Cup race since leaving the team his father -- and stepmother Teresa -- founded after the 2007 season.

But to blame Teresa for what has happened to the No. 8 and everything else at DEI isn't fair. She didn't plan to be the person in charge, but once there her commitment to the company and her husband's legacy was unwavering.

Sure, she doesn't come to the track often. That doesn't make her a bad owner or unfit to own the company. Rick Hendrick wasn't at Texas eight days ago when Jeff Gordon ended his year-and-a-half winless streak and nobody cursed him.

Teresa hired people to handle the competition side and trusted them to make good decisions, just like a lot of corporate owners do.

When Earnhardt Jr. left and the economy turned sour she easily could have sold out. She didn't. She merged with Chip Ganassi with the hope that one day DEI could stand on its own when everything turns around.

Ganassi and I didn't see eye to eye last year when it was suggested in one of my columns his organization was in a state of disarray. But he was completely on target earlier this year when he stood up for his partner.

"She could have walked away from the sport in 2001 and nobody would have said a word," Ganassi said. "Here she commits herself to the business and commits herself to the industry, and because she's not what you want her to be, she's not good, or she's no good, or this or that.

"Whether she wants to be at the racetrack or not isn't a measuring of her interest in the sport. Because she doesn't walk up and down the pit lane with a hat on like Jack Roush, she can't be any good -- that's just ridiculous. She's committed to the sport, and she's my partner, so lay off her. OK?"

Second that.

That likely will make me a villain to this thing called "Junior Nation." Maybe I'll get blamed for what has happened to DEI.

That's the way the Blame Game works.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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