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DEI's future faces another key negotiation

DEI's future faces another key negotiation

DEI's future faces another key negotiation

TALLADEGA, Ala. - As Dale Earnhardt Jr. and DEI continue to negotiate one of the biggest contracts in NASCAR, there's another deal in the works that could have a dramatic effect upon the future of both.

Robert Yates confirmed on Saturday that talks have resumed between Robert Yates Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. The topic of discussion: The possible sale of RYR to DEI.

Last year when Yates spoke of entertaining partners, a contingent from DEI expressed interest. And as expansion is on the minds of most organizations in anticipation of a four-team minimum proposed by NASCAR, a DEI acquisition of RYR is a distinct possibility.

"The deal our family needs to make is for (son) Doug and his children's future," Yates said. "They want Doug, and I don't want to be the last team standing in the garage.

"The Earnhardts are a NASCAR franchise here. I've raced against three generations of Earnhardts — Ralph, Dale and Junior. The Earnhardts are the greatest people in the world to work with or race against."

Several scenarios have been discussed between varieties of individuals from both companies — including Dale Jr. Certainly the structure of teams, drivers and equipment would be contingent on whether Junior remains at DEI.

Over the last few years, DEI's engine department has struggled as Richie Gilmore transitioned from chief engine builder to VP of competition. Although Gilmore has worked feverishly to rebuild DEI's engine program, he's the first to admit that someone of Doug Yates' caliber would make a tremendous difference.

"I think Doug could have a positive impact on anyone's engine shop," Gilmore said. "Doug is one of those guys who is in the top three in the industry. He's just a quality guy he has great procedures. He's put a lot of things in place with the Roush-Yates engine shop. To me he's like a Randy Dorton (who founded Hendrick Motorsports' engine dept) in the industry. He's that type of guy. He's could have a huge impact at DEI. He's a super guy all around."

With Chevrolet's roster currently up to 17 teams — including seven of the top 10 — it would make sense for DEI to consider aligning with Ford, a company that currently fields just nine teams in the Nextel Cup garage. With Hendrick Motorsports' dominance, Richard Childress' revival and Joe Gibbs Racing winning three of the last seven championships, DEI could easily be considered fourth in line. Gilmore said Chevrolet has already submitted a new offer to DEI, and the company is willing to listen to offers.

"We look at the Chevrolet deal and with the key partners we all share a lot of resources on the engine side," Gilmore said. "Chevrolet doesn't have a pecking order. It's more of the teams themselves. I don't know how Ford does that. I've never worked with anybody in the Ford camp.

"One thing on the Ford side — they don't have as many teams. You've got Roush. You got the Yateses. What Chevrolet has is every organization has at least three teams and they're all strong. They have all the cars in the field every week. On that side of it I'd say we'd move up in the pecking order, but Chevrolet is a strong brand and all the cars run well."

The question that has been asked during the entire Earnhardt Jr. negotiation process is whether DEI could provide the caliber of equipment necessary for Driver 8 to win championships. For Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, Junior's sister and business partner, the driver's ability to perform is an essential part of the equation.

"In the next 10 years, competition on the track is very important for Dale — to add championships to his belt and to add wins to his belt and to do what the Earnhardts have done before him," Earnhardt Elledge said. "I want to situate the brand in the next 10 years so that after that, whether we build an automotive kingdom or restaurants or whether he's a TV personality or whatever...the brand extends beyond his career.

"It's all tied back to what these guys do every day and that's performance and they're likeability factor and their personality. Dale has all that and we have to add a real consistent performance. We have to put wins in the win column and win championships. Just ask Earnhardt Nation. It's all tied together."

Max Siegel, DEI president of Global Operations, says he feels the company is making progress on the Junior front. He and Earnhardt Elledge spent time at Talladega exhibiting a united front. But in addition to retaining Junior on the DEI roster, growing the company is on his short list. Acquiring Yates would expedite that objective.

"Our goal is to expand to four teams," Siegel said. "So I'm relying on Richie and everybody in the competition division to get there."

Yates had more than a friendly rivalry with Earnhardt Sr. Some of the best battles in NASCAR involved Dale and Dale (Jarrett, former driver of the No. 88 Ford) and the GM Goodwrench v. Ford Credit. After more than 40 years in racing he's watched a lot of teams come and go. He doesn't want to be part of that latter fraternity. But if Earnhardt Jr. stays at DEI and rebuilds the organization to the premier company his father intended it to be, walking away would be a lot easier.

"I believe Dale Senior would want Dale Junior to do what's best for him," Yates said. "But if we aligned with the Earnhardts, we're automatically going to jump up in the pecking order."

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