DEI out to prove its worth

Associated Press
Martin Truex Jr. will be DEI's marquee driver after Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaves at the end of the season.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. --- When Martin Truex Jr. crossed the finish line in third place at Texas Motor Speedway, it capped his best weekend in almost two months and gave Dale Earnhardt Inc. results it could celebrate.

 

No, it wasn't a victory. Those are hard to come by these days at DEI.

Bad luck, broken parts and blown motors have gotten in the way of wins, and Truex's victory at Dover in June marked the only time in the past 17 months that DEI has been able to fly the celebratory checkered flag outside its headquarters.

A team built from the bottom up by the late Dale Earnhardt to contend for Cup titles isn't really close, and his namesake son has two weeks left on his DEI career before he flees for powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports.

It's led many to predict DEI's days as a relevant race team are coming to a close, something the management group of the proud organization is fighting hard to prove wrong.

"Everything we hear, everything we read is all about how DEI is done. We're shutting down. It's just ridiculous," said Max Siegel, president of global operations. "Quite frankly, we're sick of hearing it. DEI is here to stay. We're not going anywhere."

The negative perception was created during a tumultuous five-month period when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother publicly sparred over his contract negotiations.

Earnhardt didn't cite his disdain for Teresa and the way she manages DEI when he made his decision. Instead, Junior said it was DEI's mediocre on-track performance that made it clear he had to go elsewhere to win a title.

The harsh critique stung the 400-plus employees at DEI, who worried that without NASCAR's most popular driver in the stable, the company couldn't survive.

Siegel, who left Sony BMG Music Entertainment late last year to run the business side of DEI, has had to fight since May to prove otherwise.

Since Earnhardt's announcement, the team has made a flurry of changes that included merging its engine program with Richard Childress Racing and absorbing financially strapped Ginn Racing. The Ginn acquisition pushed DEI to four full-time cars and gave it a state-of-the art shop equipped with the technology that Junior often complained DEI lacked.

"We've reached a point where we only want people here who want to be here," Siegel said. "There's no more division. We can't afford it."

 

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