DEI lines up replacement for Waltrip

UPDATE #2 Matt Kenseth and Casey Mears on Saturday denied recent speculation that they would leave their respective teams in favor of driving the #15 Chevrolet at Dale Earnhardt Inc. "Am I going to DEI? No," Kenseth said following Nextel Cup Series practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I'm happy at Roush Racing."

"I'll say right now I'm 99.9 percent sure I'm going to be with Ganassi next year," Mears said. "We had a meeting a few days ago and everything looks real positive to do something for next year, and right now we're 100 percent effort to try to make something happen for here, next year, for Ganassi. Without making any announcements, we're trying to put things together for here at Ganassi." NASCAR.com

Richie Gilmore, vice president of DEI, refused to name the driver, but dropped several hints saying he was currently in the Nextel Cup series, was younger than 30, marketable, and fast in Saturday's practice sessions. NAPA, the sponsor of that car, could choose to leave DEI and go with Waltrip to his next team. But Gilmore indicated the team would stay if DEI could sign the driver they are eyeing. Should they fail to get him, then DEI will essentially fold the team. Gilmore said Busch Series driver Paul Menard would drive seven Cup events next season, then move up full-time in 2007. ESPN.com RPM

08/05/05 Word in the Indy garage between raindrops is that Matt Kenseth is one of the drivers being considered for the No. 15 DEI car to replace Waltrip. 08/05/05 If Dale Earnhardt Inc. [DEI] can keep NAPA as a sponsor for a third car next season, an already topsy-turvy "Silly Season" could get even wilder. DEI Director of Motorsports Richie Gilmore said yesterday the team is negotiating with the auto-parts supplier about staying with the #15 being vacated by Michael Waltrip after 2005. Gilmore said DEI already has lined up a driver to team with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. for the 2006 Nextel Cup season. Gilmore wouldn't disclose a name but said it was someone prominent on another race team "that's been on our wish list for some time."

"[NAPA] has some options with us, Michael and some other race teams," Gilmore said. "We've put about a two-week window on it where they've got to make the decision and we've got to make a decision and go forward. But we have a driver kind of laid out, and everything laid out." Gilmore also pooh-poohed the idea of reuniting Earnhardt Jr. with Tony Eury Jr. if the #8 Chevrolet were to qualify for the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Earnhardt won a career-high six races last year with Eury as car chief. An off-season shake-up moved Eury to Waltrip's team as crew chief this year. "I would say that scenario would take away from both teams, so we wouldn't even look at that," Gilmore said. "That would affect both teams in a negative way." Gilmore said the possibility of naming Eury as Earnhardt's crew chief for next season hadn't been discussed much. "It's still too early," he said. "There's been a lot of talk outside of DEI but not at our company." Richmond Times Dispatch

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