BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) – Tony Eury Jr. says speculation that he will be back as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2006 – or sooner – is premature.

The talk about the cousins reuniting on the No. 8 Chevrolet was sparked recently when Earnhardt said he felt that differences the two had in the past had been “fixed” and both found out “It’s not always greener on the other side for either one of us.”

An announcement on Thursday that Eury had signed a contract extension with DEI through 2008 added to the conjecture.

Eury said Friday at Michigan International Speedway that he is happy to know he’s “got a home and people wanted me to stay around at DEI,” but that doesn’t mean anything has been decided about his future.

“I really don’t know yet,” he said. “Me and (team owner) Teresa (Earnhardt) talked and we just decided I’d sign the contract so I’d be a part of DEI and not worry about which team I’m going to be with. They’ve got two or three options that we’re looking at for next year. We just got to sit down, maybe in December, and figure it out.”

The split took place last winter after Eury – who shared the crew chief job with his father, Tony Sr. – and Earnhardt were hardly speaking to each other.

DEI’s solution was to move Eury and his crew from the No. 8 to Michael Waltrip’s No. 15 Chevy and switch most of Waltrip’s crew to the Earnhardt’s team.

The experiment improved Waltrip’s results, but Earnhardt has won just once this year, switched crew chiefs again and is 15th in the points, seemingly out of the running for the NASCAR playoffs.

The new contract means that Eury will not go with Waltrip to another team, as had been speculated, or simply move on to a new situation. But Eury acknowledges he did think about both options.

“I did go out and search for other teams and I did go talk to several of them, see how their operations are run,” he said. “There was a lot of good offers on the table. There were several that were a lot more money than what I stayed for.

“When I finally sat down and thought about it, this is the place I want to be. I’ve got a great team behind me and a lot of friends and family there. I see there are going to be great things next year and about three years to come.”

He readily admits the decision also had something to do with his allegiance to his late uncle, Dale Earnhardt.

“Big E gave me a big chance and a big shot at letting me get to where I am today,” Eury said. “I owe a lot to him.”

One thing Eury is certain about is that he will stay with Waltrip to the end of the 2005 season.

“I told Michael I wasn’t going to leave him here,” he said. “I told him that at the beginning of the year and I’m going to stay with that.”

It would be fine with Eury, though, if he does wind up working with Earnhardt Jr. again in the future.

“I’d love to work with him,” Eury said. “If we did get back together, I think it would be a whole different deal. Dale Jr. always told (the media) he’d like to know what it’s like to drive for somebody else. I think that’s kind of what he’s done.

“It’s not another car owner, but he’s had a different team underneath him and he’s kind of seen what the other side of the board looks like. And same thing for me. I got out from underneath Tony Sr.’s wings, kind of done things on my own and got to work with a different driver. So both of us kind of got what we wish and know what’s on the other side now.”

Eury shrugged when asked if he would choose to go with Earnhardt or Martin Truex Jr., the Busch Series star who will move to a full-time Nextel Cup ride with DEI next year.

“If I had a choice, I don’t know,” he said.

“I’d be with either one of them. I tested with Martin Truex a couple of times last year and I think he’s an awesome race car driver, got a great feel. And you’ve got Dale Jr., which is Dale Jr. I don’t think you could go wrong with either driver.”

AP-ES-08-19-05 1532EDT

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