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Ginn Merges With DEI to Stay Competitive

Even though he was on top, Ginn stuck to his word and allowed Martin to keep his plan of running a partial schedule this season. So Martin climbed out of the car at Bristol in March and forfeited the points lead as he turned the wheel over to Regan Smith.

That strong start should have lured big-money sponsors to the organization, but they never materialized and Ginn was forced sponsor Marlin and Nemechek himself with his Ginn Resorts brand.

He stopped doing that in early June, allowing the two cars to run with plain black paint schemes _ Martin's car is sponsored by the U.S. Army _ and he was forced to let employees go as they scaled back operations.

"We were forced with either having to cut expenses or keep running the cars," he said. "And when I cut expenses, I noticed our performance level was going down. That really weighed on my mind."

Convinced that merging teams is the way of the future in NASCAR, Ginn set out to find a partner that would help create one fully funded super team.

Ginn found it in DEI, which has been trying to move back into elite status after several lean years following Earnhardt's 2001 death. The team took another hit in May when Earnhardt Jr. said he would leave at the end of the season _ he's going to Hendrick Motorsports, based partly on a poor relationship with Teresa Earnhardt and partly on his belief that DEI isn't in position to win championships.

DEI has made strides since that May 10 announcement, focusing on building the team and preparing for a future without Earnhardt Jr. Siegel said Ginn was the perfect opportunity.

Ginn's shop is just four miles away from DEI, and will immediately house Martin and Menard's teams. Earnhardt and Truex will move into the building if they are eliminated from Chase contention, or when the season ends. DEI's existing facility will be used for the Busch and driver development programs.

DEI officials and Ginn will spend the next several weeks merging the personnel from both companies, and it's not clear who will make the cut. Smith, who has shared seat time with Martin this season but was expected to get a Cup ride of his own with Ginn, is now in limbo. He's entered in Friday night's Truck race in Indianapolis for Ginn, with nothing else immediately announced on his schedule.

Ginn said letting employees go _ particularly Marlin and Nemechek _ is the hardest part of the merger. But he's convinced it's for the best for both companies.

"I look at this like I may have sacrificed some ownership, and it doesn't have my name on it, but at the end of the day I have bettered everybody for doing this," Ginn said. "Even if the sponsors had come in, we probably would be talking about something like this anyway. This is just going to be the way teams operate going forward, and we needed to be invited to the party before it was too late."

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© 2007 The Associated Press