[UPDATED with info from Earnhardt.]
Tip to young drivers: If you're fortunate enough to have both a sponsor and a team willing to give you a ride, hold onto it with both hands.
Jeffrey Earnhardt, the 21-year-old grandson of Dale Earnhardt, has lost his truck series ride with Rick Ware Racing, apparently because Earnhardt and his advisors were looking to jump ship and bring his current sponsor along.
RWR announced the severance in a statement. "We have been informed by several team owners that our driver and his management company has been shopping around for another team," Ware said, "alluding that sponsorship was coming with them." Earnhardt had been sponsored by Fuel Doctor, which has been aligned with RWR since 2008.
Earnhardt had been slated to run the entire year with RWR in the Camping World Truck Series. In three races this season, he had three top-20 finishes and currently sits at 10th in the standings.
"It is disheartening that all the effort, time and money spent on Jeffrey have been for nothing, but we have been given no choice but to look for another driver," Ware said. "It's a disappointment that I have not felt in this sport before."
Later Tuesday, Earnhardt issued the following statement:
"To read that release was very upsetting and I'm disappointed to hear the inflammatory and disparaging statements personally made by Rick Ware about me and my company. The facts support that we did reach out to other race teams after the sponsor notified Rick Ware and my group that they were pursuing alternative marketing venues and after we were contacted by Rick Ware informing us that he would be unable to support me without the sponsor's funding.
"This past Sunday, Rick advised us that he would only race me in Martinsville providing we signed a release to allow him out of his contract with JEI. That release never arrived and we notified him in writing on Monday that we expected to drive the #1 truck in Martinsville, in accordance with our contract. To suggest anything other than these facts does not reflect the truth and is unfair to the fans and us.
"We are extremely thankful for Fuel Doctor's support over the past two years and will avoid compromising our progress this season by giving credence to the misinformation coming from RWR. This news speeds up the need to find an alternative ride and we look forward to continuing our run for rookie of the year with a new team."
Nothing's ever easy in NASCAR, is it?