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Junior leaving DEI in his rearview mirror

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt Junior is leaving the company founded by his late father when his contract with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated expires at the end of season.

It's a shake-up certain to ignite a bidding war for NASCAR's most popular driver.

Earnhardt had asked for 51 percent ownership of the team now run by his stepmother, Teresa.

Negotiations on a contract extension began before the start of the 2007 season and have been tense all along.

Earnhardt's sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, had set a deadline to get the deal done by the end of the month.

The two have adamantly stated that their only goal is to help Junior win Cup championships, something he's been unable to do at DEI.

Earnhardt hasN'T been a legitimate title contender since 2004.

In 2005, he had a horrendous season when Teresa Earnhardt split up his crew, and he failed to make the Chase for the championship.

He rebounded last year by making the Chase, but was never a threat for the title.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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