Earnhardt Merges With Hendrick, Harvick Merges With Childress

Car owner Rick Hendrick will merge his existing Busch team into JR Motorsports, the Busch team Earnhardt owns. Harvick, meanwhile, strengthened the existing alliance between Richard Childress and Kevin Harvick Inc., which races in the Busch and Truck Series.

The deals were announced separately Monday, and come on the heels of mergers last week between Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Ginn Racing, and a partnership between Robert Yates Racing and the open-wheel organization of Newman/Haas/Lanigan.

Many team owners currently believe combining resources with bigger operations is the only way to remain competitive in NASCAR right now.

Earnhardt, who will drive a Nextel Cup car next season for Hendrick, currently fields one Busch car out of JR Motorsports. He had hoped his signing with Hendrick would help him expand the team, and under the deal, JRM will run two Busch teams in 2008 and use Hendrick engines, chassis and vehicle engineering support.

Hendrick will be listed as owner of the No. 5 Chevrolet, and Earnhardt as the owner of the No. 88. Brad Keselowski currently drives the No. 88, and Earnhardt said last weekend he wants to sign him through next year.

Kyle Busch has been driving the No. 5, but he's leaving Hendrick at the end of this season.

"Being a relatively new team owner in this sport, this is a huge step for me and everyone at JR Motorsports," said Earnhardt Jr., who starts his five-year deal with Hendrick next season.

"It was never part of the equation when I was deciding where to drive next year, but it seemed to be a natural progression once Rick and I began talking about the transition into 2008."

Hendrick said approximately 30 employees, including crew chief Chad Walter, will move from his shop to JRM.

"Ultimately, Dale Jr. and I both want to win races and give our people the best possible chance at achieving success," Hendrick said. "Instead of operating independently of each other, we have an opportunity to work together to field an even stronger Busch Series effort."

Meanwhile, Harvick will receive more technical support from Richard Childress Racing, the team he's driven for since 2001. RCR already provides engines for Harvick's Busch and Truck teams. KHI will also be more involved in testing, aerodynamics, suspension and chassis.

"The goal of this increased relationship is to make both programs stronger," said Childress. "Our plan is to field a fourth NASCAR Nextel Cup Series team for 2008, so we're going to work more closely with KHI on the Busch side."

Story Courtesy: CBS.sportsline.com & AP Wire Reports


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