Make Room For Junior

Apparently the biggest free agent in NASCAR's history doesn't have a shot at joining the most powerful team in the sport.

That's if you listen to what team owner Rick Hendrick has to say.

"We're good friends and I've talked to him, because I really want him to make the best decision and do the best thing for himself," Hendrick told The Associated Press. "But right now, I'm full."

Hendrick's overflowing roster of four drivers currently stands at Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Casey Mears.

With NASCAR's plans to limit teams to fielding no more than four cars expected to be put into place next season, Hendrick does have a full house and not a spot for Earnhardt, Jr.

But there's a simple solution.

Make some room.

Johnson and Gordon aren't going anywhere, based on both their successful record and the fact that they have some ownership ties with the team.

But Busch and Mears, while under contract, would certainly be expendable to add the caliber of someone like Earnhardt, Jr.

It's hard to believe that Hendrick isn't at least intrigued by the prospect of adding Junior to a stable with Gordon and Johnson, giving him a "Murderer's Row" of driving and, just as importantly, marketing talent.

Earnhardt, Jr. will no doubt come delivered with Budweiser sponsorship, which would reunite the beer manufacturer with Hendrick, who’s No. 25 Chevy ran A-B colors for many years.

With all due respect to Mears and Busch, replacing either for the chance to land Earnhardt, Jr. is an easy choice.

Mears has started off about as badly as possible since coming over to Hendrick from the Chip Ganassi Racing team, scratching only one top ten in the season's first eleven races.

Opening up the No. 25 for Earnhardt, Jr. could simply be a matter of shifting Mears' services to one of the Hendrick "satellite" operations, CNC-Haas or Ginn, both of which run with Hendrick engines. Either team has room under the four-car cap and would no doubt welcome a young talent, with continued Hendrick power.

While Busch has been more successful by far than Mears, already winning a race this season, he could be seen as expendable as well.

His continued hot-tempered actions as well as Busch's inability to keep his emotions intact, both on and off the track, are beginning to make him a liability to the Hendrick operation.

The most recent case in point was the move he tried late in Saturday night's NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, when he tried to go three-wide late in the race and caused an accident that knocked out the No. 5 Chevy as well as his brother Kurt.

That wasn't the first time Busch has caused such an incident and nobody would blame Hendrick if he were starting to tire of the act.

With a chance to lock-up the sport's biggest name, Hendrick should do whatever it takes to rearrange his roster, even if it means parting ways with one of his young drivers.




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