Saturday, February 2, 2008

What's the Future for DEI?

I've read an article about the DEI/Ginn merger, where former Ginn co-owner Jay Frye and crew chief Ryan Pemberton were talking about the pain of dissolving a team that had been around for about 10 years. When DEI basically bought out the Ginn operations, a lot of employees were suddenly without jobs.

Jay Frye is now with Team Red Bull, and even though he could have stayed with DEI, he decided to leave, because he didn't like the thought of having to fire so many employees while keeping his own job. I like Jay Frye's style.

Ryan Pemberton left DEI for different reasons. He didn't like the corporate structure of the company, and the "Wall Street" style of management at his new employer. Ryan spoke of the DEI mantra of preserving and continuing Dale Earnhardt's legacy, and quite frankly, Ryan said that's not what he was there for. I think he's right.

Ryan Pemberton is now with Michael Waltrip Racing, serving as David Reutimann's crew chief. Ryan felt like he probably could be working for a team like Rick Hendrick's, but felt that MWR is his place, because he felt like he can make a difference at a young struggling team, such as Michael Waltrip Racing.

I like Ryan's style too. He know's what he's good at doing, and he seeks out opportunities to do it.

My question is this: What exactly is Dale Earnhardt Inc. good at doing these days?

The first answer to my own question is this: DEI is good at marketing memorabilia for the late, great Dale Earnhardt. My second answer is that DEI is good at coming up with really cool sounding titles, such as President for Global Operations. I assume that Max Siegel, who holds that title at DEI, regularly visits the operations folks at DEI London, DEI New Delhi, DEI Shanghai, DEI Tokyo, and DEI Toronto. They do have operations globally, don't they?

Oh, and by the way, they also have some sort of race car team or teams too, don't they? Yeah, that's right! Dale Earnhardt Jr. used to drive for them! Now they've got Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin, Aric Almirola, and Regan Smith and Paul Menard. They currently drive the 01, the 1, the 8, and the 15 cars. A 4 car team should make them a major contender on the track, shouldn't it?

Martin Truex Jr won a race last year, and that was the only race that DEI won in 2007. DEI has recently joined forces with Richard Childress Racing, Dale Earnhardt's former employer and friend, to produce engines for both operations. Some fans of Richard Childress Racing drivers Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer are a little nervous about this joint endeavor.

I have to make this one observation: After Dale died on February 18, 2001, DEI became a launchpad for Dale Earnhardt Jr. When Dale Jr. left at the end of 2007, DEI ceased to be what it was, as far as a racing operation. Mark Martin is a great driver, and so is Martin Truex Jr., and probably so are the other drivers. What remains at DEI is not nearly as important as what has left DEI, in my humble opinion. Dale Jr. made DEI popular. He wasn't able to keep the performance up to what it was in 2003 and 2004, and he left. Dale wanted to race competitively, and that's exactly what his son wants to do, so he left a team that wasn't providing what he needed and went to one that promises to do all that he needs: Win.

Dale Earnhardt, in my humble opinion, was the greatest driver Nascar has ever had. When he died, DEI started to die, and now that the son is gone, it will continue to compete, but the spark is gone now. DEI is basically a marketing operation now. Racing is not the priority, selling memorabilia is. I hope DEI proves me wrong, but so far they are not coming close to doing that.

I think what DEI doesn't seem to understand is that this company was started by a racer. That racer is gone, but racing continues. Racers race. Period. When racers can not compete with what the owner gives them to compete with, they leave. The go race for someone else. That's what racers do. Dale Jr. left DEI because he could no longer compete on the level at which he accustomed to competing. If you read a history of his father, you will discover that Dale did exactly the same thing in 1981, and again in 1984. He left J.D. Stacy when he bought out Rod Osterlund, and then left Bud Moore when he was not happy with the equipment. Where did he go both times? Richard Childress. The rest, as they say, is history.

DEI? Just win races. Give your drivers what they need to win races. The marketing will be automatic if you just put them into victory lane. Fans love winners. They still love Dale Earnhardt too, but he hasn't won a race in 8 years. Put some winners in your shop, and you'll sell all the tee shirts you can produce.


  1. I'm happy for Ryan and Jay. The bottom line is that's what important. If they couldnt be happy at DEI then they needed to seek other opportunities and it sounds as if they have.

    As for DEI, I'm not so sure. Don't care for Mark Martin but I do like Truex. I hope the things they've done since Jr announced his departure will be positive for Truex. I think that would make Junior happy as well.

    I wish Teresa would make a clean break with DEI. Take the DE Foundation and use it in ways Dale would be proud of. I don't think her heart is in the racing aspect and I wish she'd allow those who can make a difference to do so.

    I still hold out that one day Dale Jr will be a part of DEI again, perhaps in the running of the racing side of it. I think it would make his father happy.

    As for Jr's 'legacy' at DEI, I hope Max was right and they do keep his stuff there. Watching and experiencing his son's wins made Dale Sr happy and what made him happy should remain a part of DEI's history.

  2. Great post. I agree whole-heartedly with everything you say.
    DEI will never ever be what they were when big Dale was running the show. I couldn't be happier for Junior to get out while the getting was good. DEI will eventually fall flat on their face. Um....her face.


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