Saturday, October 20, 2007

What's Next for DEI?

It was announced on Thursday that Director of Competition Steve Hmiel has parted ways with Dale Earnhardt Inc. This came as somewhat of a shock to many DEI followers, as Hmiel seemed to be one of the employees that stood firmly behind the company's vision (what ever that is). Steve told the media that he had differences with his former employer over the direction that the company was taking, and it was decided by both parties that he should leave.

Yesterday, it was announced that 3 DEI employees had been fired for paying for a banner sign dragged through the sky over Lowes Motor Speedway last week that read "How Much Money Does Bobby Ginn Owe You?" It is well known that well over 100 employees lost their jobs at Ginn Racing when it merged with DEI, from crew members to drivers and crew chiefs as well. Apparently more than a few of them have expressed their displeasure at their severance pay, or lack thereof. DEI has once again tried to put a positive spin on the merger, and apparently are not happy about the former employees expressing their angst.

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he was leaving DEI, immediately speculation began circulating over whether crew chief Tony Eury Jr. would leave with him. As it turns out, Tony Jr. has already left, but not before his father Tony Sr. or Pops, left. Pops was Dale Jr.'s first crew chief in Nascar. Also it is known that at least a few of the 8 team's crew members have already left the team or are leaving at the end of the year.

When will the bleeding stop? Apparently not soon.

DEI was founded by Dale and Teresa Earnhardt, as Dale more than once described, as a racing organization for their kids. Kerry Earnhardt is at DEI, and his son Jeffrey is racing in the Busch East series with DEI sponsorship, but now Dale Jr., Kelley, Tony Jr., Pops, and Steve Hmiel, all family, have left or will be leaving at the end of the season. All of these people are family, in one way or another. The only really significant hire that DEI has made in the management side of the business is Max Siegel, who is now president of Global Operations for DEI. Mark Martin is there through next year on a part time basis, as is Aric Almirola. Regan Smith apparently has a deal as well, but I doubt that any of this will replace Dale Jr., the Eurys, and Steve Hmiel.

My hope is that Steve will find a place at Hendrick Racing next year, in some capacity. He's a proven crew chief, and has been involved in the management of race teams. But my private, selfish hope is that he will become Dale Jr.'s spotter at Hendrick next year, because a lot of us who are Dale Jr. fans miss Steve's familiar "Crank it up, June" on the radio after the start engines command has been given.

Where ever Steve goes, I wish him well. I hope that he will still be working with Dale Jr. in some capacity in the future.

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