Four-car team to run under DEI banner

INDIANAPOLIS -- Now that Dale Earnhardt Inc. has completed the merger with Ginn Racing to become a four-car Nextel Cup organization, finding a replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr. becomes the top priority.

Max Siegel, the president of global operations at DEI, said on Wednesday the team remains hopeful of signing Kyle Busch.

Busch became the top free agent in the market when it was announced two months ago that Earnhardt would replace him at Hendrick Motorsports next season.

Joe Gibbs Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Evernham Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing also are in the mix with DEI, which is believed to be a strong contender.

Siegel said Earnhardt's replacement has to be named by late August because of potential sponsorship deals connected to the car.

"We have sponsor options on the table that align with what we do," he said. "We are very close. Hopefully, now that this [merger] is out of the way we can one hundred percent focus on putting that team together.

"But it's important for whoever will become a part of our family to now be able to see our vision crystallize.''

The vision began to crystallize late Tuesday afternoon when DEI completed a merger with Ginn Racing that makes it a four-car team for Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Siegel said this part of DEI's expansion plan that would have taken place regardless of Earnhardt's decision to leave.

He hopes it shows that oft-maligned team owner Teresa Earnhardt is committed to making the company one of the best in NASCAR as her late husband, seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, intended.

"This is not about Dale Jr., not about Teresa, not about Max Siegel," said Siegel, the president of global operations at DEI. "This is a great thing for the 400 people that had dedicated their lives to the sport and to making DEI a great company.

"Perhaps these are things people will see that demonstrates Teresa's commitment."

The deal gives DEI Earnhardt [8], Martin Truex Jr. [1], Paul Menard [15] and Mark Martin [01] for the remainder of this season. All four are locked into Sunday's race with Menard picking up the owner's points held by Ginn's No. 14 car that was 29th.

But Siegel said the move had nothing to do with owner's points and everything to do with the long-term future of the company that will move into Ginn's 180,000-square foot Mooresville, N.C., shop by the end of the season.

The acquisition of Ginn's operation and surrounding property was a major part of the deal because DEI has no room to expand at its current shop five miles away.

"We wanted to get a place to put four Cup teams together, to have an efficient manufacturing facility, a great technical facility and set up in a way where everybody can communicate," Siegel said.

"It's a well-designed race shop and a perfect fit for us."

Siegel said DEI's current facility will remain the home for administrative offices and a state-of-the-art pit stop school. He said the shop area will be used to field two Busch Series programs, a couple of Busch East Series cars and possibly a Truck Series program.

He said this is the same plan that was in place before Earnhardt announced he was leaving, the same one he was charged with when hired from the entertainment industry prior to the season.

"What we have talked about since I got here was how do you institutionalize this business and make it something that will transcend personalities and time and come up with a great, healthy business model," Siegel said.

"If you take a step back, what Dale Sr. accomplished and the values and goals that he set, they transcend time."

Siegel said DEI is built around the cultural icon of Earnhardt, not Earnhardt Jr.

"If you look over history, people still talk about how great Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were," he said. "There's a reason to talk about a cultural icon.

"My focus is to keep my head down and make sure the company lives up to the standards Dale Sr. and Teresa set. This has been the philosophical and business philosophy we've had since I walked in the door."

Siegel said DEI actually had discussions about purchasing Ginn Racing, then MB2 Motorsports, last season before it was bought by real estate entrepreneur Bobby Ginn.

He said Ginn will remain a part of DEI as a partial owner and financial partner. He would not specify what percentage of the company Ginn owns.

"I have some really exciting marketing initiatives in how we go about our commercial department. His expertise in resort hospitality definitely is a plus," Siegel said.

Ginn admitted the lack of sponsorship for the Nos. 13 car of Joe Nemechek and 14 of Sterling Marlin led to his decision to merge, but said the end result was a win-win for both parties.

He doesn't consider his brief ownership of Ginn Racing a failure.

"This is something I believe we eventually would have done anyway," he said. "What we didn't want to do was be left out of the merger opportunity.

"I just felt like if we were proactive at it while we still have cars in the top 35 we'll be looked at much differently."

Ginn said there several other options with other companies.

"We decided to go with them because of the history and quality of the DEI program," he said, adding his real estate businesses remain healthy.

Ginn said his company, Ginn Resorts, will show up on the cars in some capacity and that he hopes to remain very active from the sponsor side of the business.

"Here's a situation where we spent a lot of money improving and getting our shop where it is today," Ginn said. "DEI has done the same thing at their place. Put the two together and you'll have one dynamic team."

But the Nos. 13 and 14 teams will no longer exist with the 13 being eliminated entirely and the 14 points going to the No. 15. With the No. 13, which was 39th in owner points, gone the No. 21 team of the Wood Brothers will move into the top 35 guaranteed a spot in the field.

Siegel said what will happen to Regan Smith, who had been slated to drive the No. 14 for the remainder of the season before the merger, will be determined in the near future. For now, Smith will drive in the Truck Series this weekend at Indianapolis and not the Cup race as planned.

Aric Almirola, who recently moved from Joe Gibbs Racing to Ginn, is expected to split the rest of the season in the No. 01 with Martin, who has been running a part-time schedule.

Siegel said Martin is committed to running at least 22 races for DEI next season and working long-term with the developmental driver program as he was at Ginn.

"Even from the purest of racing purest, to have someone as talented and committed as Mark Martin as a part of this family and really committed to long-term development of drivers, that's a huge statement with respect to the commitment of this organization as well,'' he said.

Ginn Racing will continue to use engines built by Hendrick Motorsports this weekend, then begin using engines built by the new DEI and Richard Childress Racing program the remainder of the year.

John Story, the vice president of motorsports operations for DEI, will oversee the merger. DEI's current management team will remain intact for all day-to-day activities, with former Ginn minority owner Jay Frye involved.

"The combined resources of the companies are tremendous," Story said. "Ginn Racing just completed the installation of a seven-post rig. With our recently formed R&D team, as well as the combined efforts of two strong engineering programs, we will be able to accelerate our learning curve.

"Both companies have many smart and talented people. All of our teams will undoubtedly become stronger."

David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.