Junior announces he will leave DEI

"We've decided it's time for us to move on and seek opportunities to drive for another team in 2008."

With that simple sentence Dale Earnhardt Jr. began to end his relationship with the only team he had ever driven for, the Dale Earnhardt Inc. team his father founded in 1998.

"Today I want to say with complete sincerity it's been a pleasure to drive for DEI and it will continue to be for the rest of this season," Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt, who is in the final year of his contract with DEI, has been negotiating a new deal all season with DEI. Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, Earnhardt Jr.'s sister, is his manager and chief negotiator.

Earnhardt, 32, had said he wanted controlling interest in DEI (at least 51 percent) so he could make the necessary decisions to help DEI reach the championship level.

He repeatedly said he thought everything would work out for him to remain at DEI as the driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet. Earnhardt has 17 Cup victories in his career.

What Earnhardt said he didn't know was exactly which team he would drive for beginning in 2008. He is essentially a free agent, and the most sought-after driver in the history of the sport.

Any team or manufacturer could be considered a contender, but Earnhardt has said he would like to stay with Chevrolet.

Chevy has won nine of 10 races this
season and has what are generally considered three of the sport's top four teams: Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com. David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.