MIAMI - Teresa Earnhardt and Chip Ganassi will combine their sponsorship-strapped race teams next season, an effort to stabilize their organizations in a tough economic time.

The combined team will be called Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and will field cars for Martin Truex, Aric Almirola, Juan Pablo Montoya and a driver yet to be named.

"In this ultra-competitive era of NASCAR, it is necessary to build and sustain the strongest team possible, and our combining with the people and equipment at Dale Earnhardt Inc. will help create a strong four-car program for years to come," Ganassi said Wednesday in a statement. "This is a win-win for both organizations as well as all of our partners."

Both organizations have struggled to secure sponsorship this season, forcing the teams to pool resources. Although neither team was in imminent danger of collapse, both were searching for additional funds to shore up competition and stability.

Ganassi shuttered his No. 40 team in July when he couldn't find sponsorship for former Indy Racing League champion Dario Franchitti, who has since returned to that series.

That move forced Ganassi to lay off 71 people, and he was hopeful he could avoid more cutbacks after joining forces with Earnhardt. DEI, however, was expected to reduce its staff with the new venture.

Both teams said details of the new organization will be announced later.

Among the remaining issues is what manufacturer the team will use. DEI has a contract with General Motors, and Ganassi uses Dodges. The new team is expected to use Chevrolets.

If that happens, engine supply details must be ironed out. Ganassi has his own engine shop, but DEI has an engine partnership with Richard Childress Racing.

Founded by the late Dale Earnhardt, DEI has been reeling since Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s departure at the end of last season. DEI swallowed cash-strapped Ginn Racing in July 2007 to acquire shop space and owner points that would push Paul Menard's car into the top 35.

It started this season as a solid four-car operation - only rookie Regan Smith's car lacked full sponsorship - but has quickly crumbled. Mark Martin is moving to Hendrick Motorsports next season, and the U.S. Army is moving its sponsorship to Tony Stewart's new team.

Then Menard said he was leaving and taking sponsorship from his father's hardware store with him to Yates Racing.

It left DEI with sponsorship next year only for Truex, who recently signed a one-year extension through 2009. DEI has been committed to Almirola, but there's no indication Smith is part of long-term plans.

Ganassi has half of next season sponsored by Wrigley's for Montoya, and full sponsorship from Target on his No. 41 car. That's the only car inside the top 35 with full funding that has an open seat.

"Having a partner like Chip who is heavily involved on the competition side of the business is an ideal situation for DEI," Teresa Earnhardt said in a statement. "He has a long history of managing championship teams in the IndyCar and Rolex Grand-Am Series, and I share his passion and goals of winning races and ultimately championships in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series."


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