Earnhardt clears air about interest in buying Panthers

Retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he is interested in being a minority owner of the Carolina Panthers, but he is not involved in the NASCAR group that is working to get in the driver’s seat of purchasing the NFL franchise.

Earnhardt, who raced at Myrtle Beach Speedway in the mid-1990s,  told The Associated Press that he recently called Marcus Smith, the president and chief operating officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., about potential involvement in purchasing the Panthers. But he is not among the drivers in a group that is headed by Charlotte businessman Felix Sabates, a minority owner with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Sabates told The Charlotte Observer that two NASCAR drivers were involved with his group and that he’d been in contact with Smith about joining his group planning to make a bid. That immediately started people thinking that Earnhardt, a native of nearby Kannapolis, might already be involved.

“(Felix) did not ask me to be involved,” Earnhardt said. “I did call Marcus and I said, ‘Hey, Marcus, if you guys are in the middle of it and you think it’s a good business deal, I definitely have some interest.’ But I am not one of the guys that Felix is talking about.”

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced last month that he would put the team up for sale after the season. The NFL has said it would like the team to remain in Charlotte. Forbes recently valued the Panthers at $2.3 billion and estimates Earnhardt’s net worth is about $300 million.

“I wouldn’t have the kind of money where I would move the needle too much, but it would be something to have a lot of pride in, and a good Charlotte NFL team is good for the city of Charlotte,” Earnhardt said. “I wish them success because of what it does for our community, not only from a pride standpoint but (from) an economical standpoint.”

Photo courtesy of CMS

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