Wednesday, July 25, 2007

DEI Purchases Ginn Racing

Following up on a story that Sirius Speedway first broke yesterday, Dale Earnhardt Inc. has announced that it is acquiring all the assets of Ginn Racing, effective immediately.

The move is being called a merger, but in reality, it appears to be a straight buyout of Ginn Racing by DEI. The team will continue to be known as Dale Earnhardt Inc., though Bobby Ginn will be listed as an ownership partner. His will serve as owner of record for the #01 US Army Chevrolet driven by Mark Martin and the #15 Menard’s Chevrolet driven by Paul Menard. DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt will continue as owner for the #8 Budweiser car driven (for now) by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and the #1 Bass Pro Shop/Tracker Boats Chevy of Martin Truex, Jr. All four cars will compete under the DEI banner in this weekend’s “Allstate 400 at the Brickyard” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Menard’s #15 car will assume the owner’s points from the Ginn Racing #14 formerly driven by Sterling Marlin, putting Menard in the Top-35 in owner’s points and guaranteeing him a spot in Sunday’s race. The #14 car is currently ranked 30th in Nextel Cup owner’s points. Rumors persist that a deal is still afoot to sell the owner’s points from the former Joe Nemechek-driven #13 Chevrolet to Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser, allowing Kenny Wallace to assume the 34th guaranteed starting spot for Sunday’s race in Indianapolis.

After facing repeated roadblocks in her efforts to expand the 100,000-square foot physical plant at DEI, Teresa Earnhardt will move the entire competitive side of the team to the 180,000-square foot Ginn Racing shops in Mooresville, N.C., possibly as soon as next week. The current DEI facility will likely serve as a museum and souvenir outlet for the team. Mark Martin has committed to running another part-time schedule of at least 22 races for DEI in 2008, and will serve as a mentor/coach for DEI’s developmental drivers.

A number of details remain to be worked out, most notably Ginn's engine deal with Hendrick Motorsports, which does not expire until the end of the 2008 campaign. Obviously, DEI (which has its own engine development program) will not continue to lease engines from Hendrick, meaning that a final-year buyout will almost certainly need to be negotiated. Martin will use Hendrick Motorsports engines this weekend at the Brickyard, before switching to DEI-Childress power next week at Pocono Raceway.

DEI President Max Siegel will continue to serve as second-in-command to Teresa Earnhardt. Ginn CEO Jay Frye will remain with the team through the transitionary period, but is not expected to stay involved beyond the next few weeks. Expect Frye -- who held a minority ownership stake in Ginn Racing -- to become a hot property himself in the coming days, as other Nextel Cup teams vie for his services.

What role Ginn himself will play in the new team is still unknown. Just 30 days ago, the wealthy resort and real estate entrepreneur spoke openly of attracting Dale Earnhardt, Jr., to his then three-car team. Things went downhill in a hurry, however, with Earnhardt announcing plans to move to Hendrick Motorsports next season, just weeks before Ginn was forced to release both Nemechek and Marlin when sponsorship for his #13 and #14 cars failed to materialize. Ginn also closed down his NASCAR Busch Series operation, trimming approximately 30 employees from the payroll. He recently announced plans to add youngster Aric Almirola to his driver lineup for the remainder of the season -- sharing the #01 car with Martin -- while elevating Regan Smith to full-time duty in the #14.

Almirola will continue to share time with Martin next season, as planned. Smith's future with the new team is unclear, and he is now scheduled to drive a Ginn Racing Chevrolet in Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at O'Reilly Raceway Park. A press release announcing the deal today said, "specific schedules for Martin, Smith and Almirola will be announced later." No mention was made of Smith. The status of Ginn developmental drivers Kraig Kinser, Ricky Carmichael and Jesus Hernandez is also unknown.

Today's announcement may mark the end of Bobby Ginn's brief tenure as a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series owner. At the very least, it will signal the end of his time as a major decision maker in the Cup garage. He purchased a controlling interest in the former MB2 Motorsports team last year, changed the name and made a number of sweeping changes, adding technology, equipment and funding to what had previously been a middle-of-the-pack team.

"When I purchased Ginn Racing last year, it was done with a goal of fielding a multi-car effort capable of winning races and championships," said Ginn. "We came very close to winning the season’s biggest race earlier this year, and today, we feel as if we have done one better by partnering with a company with the legacy of Dale Earnhardt Inc."

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