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Menard Money helps DEI-Ginn Merger
[Editor's Note: By reading this story it sounds like all is not well in NASCAR land. Teams having to merge sounds like the rosy picture NASCAR is trying to paint is not all it seems. And while the author correctly points out that billionaire John Menard is behind the DEI Ginn deal to ensure a Cup ride for his son Paul, he doesn't seem to know what AutoRacing1.com does that billionaire Mari Hulman George is a secret partner behind the Yates/Newman/Haas/Lanigan deal to ensure a NASCAR ride for her grandson Kyle Krisiloff. It's ride-buying and nepotism at its best.]

Another day, another NASCAR team merger.

This time its owners Robert and Doug Yates who announced yesterday they will be “partnering” with Paul Newman, Carl Haas and Michael Lanigan, who are long-time Champ Car-car team owners. The hope is to rejuvenate the Yates’ slumping Nextel Cup team.

The day after Bobby Ginn announced a Chevy-Chevy merger with Dale Earnhardt Inc., the Yates, with Ford racing boss Dan Davis front-and-center, announced the Ford-Ford merger.

And Ray Evernham says he expects to close on his own merger deal with Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. within the next two weeks, with a game plan that Evernham will run the competition side while Gillett runs the business side.

“The sport’s changing, and we feel we have to change to stay competitive,” Doug Yates said of the deal with Newman/Haas.

“How do we get back to winning races? We looked at a lot of different scenarios, but these guys are seven-time Champ Car series champions. They just won their 101st race last week. They’re winners, and class people.”

How much the Newman/Haas operation can really help the Yates technologically is unclear, since the Indy-car world is different from the NASCAR world. However, the Yates have been admittedly under-engineered for several years, using more old-school techniques.

The Yates declined to discuss any of the business details of the partnership. That’s the same way Ginn and DEI’s Max Siegel left it too, with no clear indication who paid how much for what.

And it is still unclear what Newman/Haas and Ginn themselves will get out of their deals. Adding Newman/Haas could make it easier for the Yates to put together a new sponsorship package.

One common denominator: each of these mergers features an outsider.

Another common denominator: each of these mergers features a stock-car operation that is struggling.

While NASCAR CEO Brian France has been pushing for a more open sport, with easier entry for newcomers NASCAR racing has gone the other way, becoming prohibitively expensive, and less balanced.

The other half of the Ginn-DEI story began to emerge yesterday, and it isn’t as pretty a picture as the one painted at Thursday’s press conference. According to one report, which could not be immediately confirmed, John Menard, the wealthy businessman whose son, Paul, is a first-year tour racer at DEI, apparently stepped in with a check to help make the merger happen. Ginn concedes sponsorship problems forced him to shut down two of his three Nextel Cup teams. More at Winston Salem Journal

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