NASCAR & Auto Racing

Earlier merger wouldn't have changed anything, Junior says

It didn’t take long for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to warm up to his new teammate, Mark Martin.

The two drivers wound up together when the DEI-Ginn merger was announced earlier this week.

They will race as teammates for the first time Sunday, along with DEI drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard.

“To be teammates with (Mark) Martin is cool; I think it’s something we’ll enjoy, and we’ll get to know each other better, too,” Junior said.

“It’s going to be fun working with him the rest of the season, and he can probably help me figure out the things to fix to get to Victory Lane.”

Earnhardt Jr. announced in May that he was leaving DEI because he believed he couldn’t win a championship with his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt, in charge. He wanted a controlling interest in DEI, and, when he didn’t get it, he signed with Hendrick Motorsports.

Even if the merger had occurred two months ago, Junior insisted he might not have stayed.

“I didn’t leave because I didn’t have the seven post (shaker machine), and it didn’t have anything to do with whether it was a two-car, three-car or four-car team,” Earnhardt Jr. said.

“The things that are happening now, I believe, are good things for the company, but I don’t think any of that would have changed my decision.”

One thing Junior would like to take with him is that familiar No. 8.

“I’d like to take it and use it the rest of my career,” he said.

“I’ll give it back when I retire. If we don’t run the eight, then we have some other options. I won’t be as torn up as the rest of my fans.”