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Looks aren't always deceiving

Earnhardt's ride with Hendrick sends DEI a message

Posted: Tuesday April 17, 2007 12:57PM; Updated: Tuesday April 17, 2007 12:57PM
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Seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive Kyle Busch's repaired car to the finish in Texas couldn't have been a pretty sight to DEI.
Seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive Kyle Busch's repaired car to the finish in Texas couldn't have been a pretty sight to DEI.
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Bizarre. That's the one word that best sums up the last hour of racing at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. For the first two-thirds of the Samsung 500, virtually nothing memorable happened on the track as Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. took turns seizing commanding leads. But then, just as the scribes in the media center were letting out a collective yawn, a downpour of weirdness ensued.

Here are five things we learned in the Lone Star State:

1. The big winner on Sunday wasn't Jeff Burton, who took the checkers, it was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 36th.

After Kyle Busch plowed into the backside of Little E's No. 8 Chevy late in the race, the engine in Earnhardt's car eventually blew and his Chevy was pushed into the garage. My full take on what transpired next will be in the magazine when SI hits the newsstand and arrives in mailboxes on Thursday, but for those of you who didn't see it, here's what happened: Busch, after the wreck, stormed out of the garage and left the speedway, thus creating a need for a new driver once his No. 5 Chevy was fixed. As Earnhardt was talking to reporters, he was asked to hop in Busch's car and take it out onto the track for the remaining 10 laps of the race.

So Earnhardt, after receiving the approval of his team, jumped in and cruised around the track for 10 laps. Why is this significant? Well, Junior is in the throes of contract negotiations with his stepmother Teresa Earnhardt, who owns DEI. And I think that the mere sight of her star driver in a Hendrick Motorsports car -- the team, by the way, that Junior would likely move to if he were to leave DEI -- gives Little E some negotiating leverage. Suddenly, after all, it's not impossible to envision him in car not owned by DEI, which is something that won't help Teresa at the bargaining table.

2. Kyle Busch messed up -- and we're not talking about happened on the track.

In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's race, when the heat of the moment was causing emotions to boil, members of Busch's team flatly said they had no idea where Kyle was and why he left. This tune changed a little later when the team said that Busch was given permission to leave and the whole thing was just a misunderstanding, but it's still fair to assume that the No. 5 crew can't be happy with its driver.

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