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DEI, RCR merge engine programs

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CONCORD, N.C. (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt Incorporated is merging its engine program with Richard Childress Racing, an move that could help DEI return to prominence.

DEI has been in a slow decline since Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001. Star driver Dale Earnhardt Junior is leaving at the end of the season because he doesn't think he can win championships at DEI.

Stepmother Teresa Earnhardt disagrees. General manager John Story says today's action backs up what she said last week, that her commitment is solid and her top priority is to win championships.

Story says the merger was Teresa Earnhardt's idea.

With the new DEIRCR agreement, the engine program will be housed in a separate facility from both race shops. Managers from both teams will oversee it.

The engines will be used for the six combined Cup teams from the two shops, the Busch programs for both organizations and Kevin Harvick's Busch team as well.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)