Dale Earnhardt Jr had a lot more to think about than Danica Patrick's foray into NASCAR racing when he met with a group of reporters after receiving the NMPA Chex most popular driver award for the seventh straight year.

Earnhardt revealed Thursday after the Myers Brothers awards ceremonies at the Venetian Showroom that his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, and his cousin and former crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., each had acquired ownership interest in JR Motorsports, which had been a 50-50 joint venture between Earnhardt and Rick Hendrick.

Though Earnhardt said talks with Patrick were "still in the negotiation stages," finding sponsorship for JRM's two Nationwide Series cars is a far more pressing problem for the organisation. Earnhardt currently has sponsorship for half a season for the #88 Chevrolet driven by new hire Kelly Bires and for four races for Earnhardt in the #5 Chevrolet.

"All the percentages changed, and I don't think that's really important," said Earnhardt, who declined to specify the ownership stakes of the four principals. "That's probably personal to the business itself, but their involvement in the company ... me and Rick don't make money racing in the Nationwide Series. We don't do it to make money.

"I have that company there to employ a lot of family and to have fun and to enjoy what there is to enjoy about the sport," he said. "Otherwise, being an owner's not very enjoyable in most cases, unless you're winning championships and whatnot. We're a Hendrick team per se, and we get the support and the resources, but we race against pretty tough competition in that series."

Earnhardt said his sister was the person directly involved in the negotiations with Patrick, the best known driver in the IndyCar Series, though not the most prolific winner.

"Her and my sister are sort of managing that entirely," Earnhardt said. "I have not been in any way, shape or form involved. She's going to drive stock for somebody -- someday. Look at all the Formula One guys over here looking around, checking it out. The handwriting's on the wall for her and several other guys."

Earnhardt's immediate concern is trying to find funding to keep Bires on the track for a full season. Brad Keselowski, who drove the #88 Chevy to consecutive third-place Nationwide Series points finishes in 2008 and 2009, is leaving to drive for Penske Racing in the Cup and Nationwide Series.

Earnhardt said he had been trying to talk Eury Jr. into serving as crew chief on his #5 car. The team parted ways with crew chief Brian Campe, Earnhardt said, after learning that Campe was looking at opportunities elsewhere.

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News