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Texas Motor Speedway replaces billboards referencing Earnhardts

1/31/2008

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Reason No. 1 for Texas Motor Speedway
to replace billboards: unhappy Earnhardts.

Four identical billboards referring to the strained relationship
between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother, Teresa, will be
replaced within the next two weeks. The flap is over ads featuring
a picture of the driver and the wording "Reason #88: Step-Mom."

TMS president Eddie Gossage said Thursday night that the
billboards, part of a series of similar ads to promote the NASCAR
Sprint Cup weekend at the track in April, will be changed after a
request from Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, the driver's sister and
business manager.

"The first thing I told her when I answered the phone was if
you guys are uncomfortable with it, all you have to do is say the
word," Gossage said. "We had a very pleasant talk."

No. 88 is a reference to Earnhardt's new car number with
Hendrick Motorsports, the team he went to after last season when he
decided to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc., his late father's company
that is run by Teresa Earnhardt. He left DEI after months of
contentious negotiations with his stepmother.

Earnhardt will still be displayed on the billboards, but the
wording will change to "Reason #88: New Car Smell."

Gossage said Elledge thought the new slogan "was cool, and Dale
Jr. loved it."

There are billboards with catchy slogans featuring the car
numbers of three other drivers.

One features a wide-eyed, grinning Tony Stewart with "Reason
#20: Road Rage!" Then there is one for Jeff Gordon with "Reason
#24: 81 Cup Wins. Zip At Texas!", and one for two-time defending
Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, "Reason #48: Twice As Good As
24!"

After getting the call from Elledge, Gossage decided to make
sure Stewart was all right with the No. 20 ad.

"I e-mailed Tony, 'What do you think?' He thought they were
hilarious," Gossage said.

Gossage said he didn't follow up with Gordon and Johnson,
Earnhardt's new teammates with Hendrick, because the TMS president
considers those slogans "benign" despite one small glitch.
Johnson's slogan "Twice As Good As 24!" was supposed to end with
a question mark, not an exclamation point.

Elledge told Gossage that she and her brother still have friends
and family at DEI and want to see the company succeed, but that
they were "excited about Hendrick Motorsports" and saw no reason
to point to past issues.

"We were trying to be edgy," Gossage said. "If this went over
the line, in their opinion, we don't want to."

There are 15 billboards, three featuring Johnson and four for
each of the other drivers, displayed on Interstates and busy
highways throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Gossage said there
will be similar-themed broadcast and print ads in the coming weeks.