CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued contract extension negotiations with DEI, the company came to terms with another driver named Earnhardt.
Jeffrey Earnhardt, the 17-year-old grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt, has signed a "long-term driving services contract" with Dale Earnhardt Inc. The signing came as Earnhardt Jr. prepared to meet Wednesday with team officials to discuss his future with his father's company.
Earnhardt Jr.'s contract with DEI is up at the end of the season, and negotiations have been tense since stepmother Teresa Earnhardt seemingly questioned his commitment in a December interview with The Wall Street Journal.
With the season set to begin with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, team officials would like to resolve Earnhardt Jr.'s situation.
Until then, they'll focus on the career of Jeffrey Earnhardt, the son of Dale Jr.'s half-brother Kerry Earnhardt.
Jeffrey Earnhardt will start as a development driver, competing for Andy Santerre Motorsports in the Busch East Series and also driving in the UARA Late Model Touring Series.
"In his young career to date, Jeffrey has displayed many of the attributes we are looking for in a driver," DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt said in a statement. "Experience will be key to developing and preparing Jeffrey to progress to and compete at higher levels."
Jeffrey Earnhardt jumped onto the NASCAR radar last season when he impressed officials at a General Motors developmental program. The three-track evaluation program was designed to help teams identify the next generation of drivers.
"Signing with DEI is a dream come true," Jeffrey Earnhardt said.
DEI also announced Kerry Earnhardt has joined the company in a role that will give him various responsibilities with everything from the race teams to the Dale Earnhardt Foundation and Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet dealership.
He'll also be a test driver.
"I didn't want to totally walk away from driving, so coming to work at DEI was my next step and might get me into a few races," said Kerry Earnhardt, who finished 22nd in the Truck Series points last season. "The good part is I get the sense the employees want me here, and it's important I'm here."