CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Teresa Earnhardt is willing to discuss a larger role at Dale Earnhardt Inc. with stepson Dale Earnhardt Jr. as part of the ongoing contract negotiations to keep him at his late father’s company.

“We are moving full speed ahead with negotiations, moving ahead as we normally would,” Teresa Earnhardt said Thursday night in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where she was promoting the documentary “Dale.”

Asked if she was committed to keeping Junior behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevrolet, she didn’t waver. “Absolutely.” Junior’s contract expires at the end of this season, and his status with the company has been in question since Teresa Earnhardt seemingly questioned his commitment in a December article in The Wall Street Journal.

“Right now the ball’s in his court to decide on whether he wants to be a NASCAR driver or whether he wants to be a public personality,” she said in the Dec. 14 story.

The remark angered Junior, who said at preseason testing last week that the two had not spoken since the quote was published because “I figured if anything needed to be said, she’d call me up and say it.”

Teresa Earnhardt indicated the two have since spoken but seemed fuzzy on when the conversation occurred.

“I don’t know, it has just been a short while ago,” she said. “We talk.”

Junior said last week his relationship with his stepmother would factor into his decision to re-sign with DEI, and he also hoped to get an ownership stake in the company.

But he said Teresa had skipped the most recent round of negotiations, sending representatives to the bargaining table to meet with Junior and his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge.

Teresa Earnhardt said Thursday there’s been nothing unusual about these extension talks.

“It’s all been very typical,” she said. “We’re moving forward, discussing everything and trying to get this done.”

AP-ES-01-18-07 2131EST