Dale Earnhardt Jr. will remain at Hendrick Motorsports until 2017, having signed a five-year extension with the leading NASCAR Sprint Cup team.
Although Earnhardt's current contract expires at the end of next year, NASCAR's perennial most popular driver has decided to continue his relationship with Hendrick, which is now in its fourth year. Earnhardt left Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the end of 2007 in order to pursue his goal of contending for the Sprint Cup series title with the series' champions and despite a good start to their partnership, winning two non-points events at Daytona, he has only won one Cup race since then – halfway through their first year at Michigan.
Despite his 117-race winless streak, however, Earnhardt is currently in position to become a Chase contender for only the second time since joining the team, having last made the playoffs in 2008. The new deal comes as a timely vote of confidence from his team, as he still has to secure his place among the top-12 championship contenders.
"We're excited to have everything formalized and announced," said team owner Rick Hendrick. "Junior and I had a handshake agreement months ago, and we let other people work out the finer points from there. It was as simple and smooth as it gets.
"My feelings haven't changed since the day he first signed with us. I'm committed as ever to putting him in the best possible situation to be successful and compete for wins and championships."
Earnhardt has enjoyed his most consistent season with Hendrick this year, following a re-shufle of his team which included taking on Jeff Gordon's former crew chief Steve Letarte and moving his group to work alongside Jimmie Johnson's inside Hendrick headquarters.
"It's great to have it all wrapped up so quickly and far in advance," said Earnhardt. "Rick and I were on the same page from the first time we talked about it, so there wasn't any sense in waiting. There were never any questions or hesitations from either of us. It was just, 'Yeah, let's do it.'
"I'm really happy at Hendrick Motorsports and enjoy working with everyone here. The team's been very competitive this season, and we're all excited about the direction of things. I want to make sure we're giving our fans something to cheer about for a long time."
Last week, Earnhardt's NASCAR Nationwide Series team, JR Motorsports (in whicj Rick Hendrick is a partner) announced the signing of Danica Patrick for a full-season program.
His Sprint Cup series boss Rick Hendrick is also a co-owner of Earnhardt's outfit.