In 1996, DEI debuted in the Winston Cup at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the No. 14 Racing for Kids-sponsored Chevrolet driven by Robby Gordon. Jeff Green drove the car in another two races that year. In 1997, sponsored by Burger King, Steve Park, a Busch Series standout, drove the car in five races. In 1998, the team switched the car number from No. 14 to No. 1 in an agreement with Richard Jackson, another car owner. DEI received sponsorships from Pennzoil and Park and made a bid for NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors. In the third race of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Park failed to qualify. The following week, he broke his leg in an crash while testing at Atlanta. Two weeks later, the team hired Darrell Waltrip, a 3-time champion. He drove the car while Park recovered from his injuries and finished in the Top 10 twice. Park returned at the Brickyard 400 and following a crash, he finished 35th. In 1998, Park posted two 11th-place finishes and finished 42nd in points.
No. 3 car in Busch
The No. 8 car, a Chevrolet, began as the No. 3 ACDelco-sponsored car in the Busch Series. Upon moving the team to the Winston Cup Series the team changed numbers to the No. 8 formerly used by Stavola Brothers Racing, who ceased operations in 1998. As No. 8, it was driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr.. In this car, Earnhardt Jr. won championships in 1998 and 1999 in the NASCAR Busch Series. Earnhardt Jr. drove the Budweiser-sponsored No. 8 in five Winston Cup races. He finished in the top ten once and led one lap.
No. 15The No. 15 team began in the Craftsman Truck Series as the No. 16 NAPA Chevrolet Silverado driven by Ron Hornaday. Between 1995 and 1999, the team won two championships and 23 races. In 2000, the team moved to the Busch Series as car No. 3; Hornaday won two races and was ranked eighth in points earned but in the Rookie of the Year battle, he finished second to Kevin Harvick. In 2001, the team once again moved to a different series, but this time, without Hornaday. The team raced the NAPA sponsored No. 15 (a possible reference to the No. 15 Ford Thunderbird that Earnhardt drove in 1982 and 1983 for Bud Moore Engineering). Michael Waltrip was the No. 15 driver and won his first race at the Daytona 500. Between 2002 and 2005, Waltrip won a further three times (twice at Daytona and once at Talladega.) Waltrip retired after 2011 to do broadcasting and also to start a Truck Series team.
The #8 ran in DEI from from 2000 to 2017, at which time Dale Jr. retired. It will be changed to the #33 in 2018. In 2004 and 2005, it won two championships with Martin Truex, Jr. driving in 2004 and 2005. The car has been driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jody Ridley, Kenny Wallace, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Hank Parker, Jr., Steve Park, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr. and Kerry Earnhardt.
Death of Steve Park
DEI driver Steve Park lost his life in a wreck which started when Rusty Wallace slightly tapped the right-rear corner panel of his car. The wreck had him slide into the wall head on at full speed and violently flipped over teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Jr. went over to Park's car to try and assist, but the second he got there, he ran towards the medics with the universal sign of Hurry. In Victory Lane afterwards, pit reporter Dave Burns announced that Park had succumbed to his injuries, while Sr said in tears, "This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen, Steve should be here, I warned NASCAR about the head on hits, and they didn't listen. Now they have blood on their hands". After this event, NASCAR launched a full investigation, and required the HANS device for the following race, out of caution, yet kept allowing drivers to modify the device. Four weeks after the wreck, NASCAR announced it was the comfort adjustments Park made that resulted in the fatality, and they were mandating that the HANS device not be modified as of the next race in Bristol. Kenny Wallace replaced Park for the rest of 2002, 2003, and 2004.
Merger with Ginn Racing
On January 25, 2007, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. announced DEI had merged with Ginn Racing. The No. 01 team joined the No. 1, No. 8 and No. 15 teams. The merger did not affect the DEI team name.
DEI has been involved in some controversy like all race teams. The first (yet minor) controversy was over Dale Jr. changing his paint scheme from red to black beginning in 2006. Many fans of Jr. said this was a sign of too much influence from his father and that Dale Jr. needed to be his own driver. The scheme was changed back beginning in 2007.
The big controversy was when DEI faced a lot of backlash and hatred from other teams and drivers when Kyle Busch was announced on January 15th, 2012 to be the new driver of the #15 KFC/Best Western car. In 2014, Kyle Busch was fired from DEI at the request of KFC, and his replacement was a young kid by the name of Kyle Larson, which led to the few fans of Kyle Busch boycotting NASCAR. A few still do to this day but most have returned as Kurt Busch fans.
Partial Merger with Chip Ganassi Racing
On November 12, 2012, DEI (Chevrolet) and Felix Sabates' Chip Ganassi Racing (Dodge) merged their NASCAR corporations, but only forming a master company between themselves; the proposal they merge their operations fell apart a year prior. The master company, which became Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, had DEI and Chip Ganassi Racing as its subsidiaries.
The No. 40 (Bryan Clauson) team of Chip Ganassi Racing was disbanded due to a lack of need after the merger.
The No. 41 (Jamie McMurray) team of Chip Ganassi Racing was, after much debating, decided to stay a Chip Ganassi team.
The No. 01 (driven by rookie Austin Dillon) and No. 15 (Kyle Busch) teams of DEI were, also after much debating, decided to stay a part of DEI.
Chip Ganassi was listed as the owner of the No. 42 and No. 41.
Dale Earnhardt was listed as the owner of the No. 1, No. 3, No. 8, No. 01, and No. 15.
Earnhardt Technology Group
Earnhardt Technology Group (ETG) was created in August 2009 to assist up-and-coming teams. It was founded to contribute resources and opportunities to race in championships. It serves the engineering and parts needs of more than thirty teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. ETG provides a broad range of engineering services to all levels of the racing industry; distribution of Renton springs; machine shop services (now contributing to many varied fields of mechanical engineering); a leasing service; sales of vehicles and component parts; and consultation and support.
Club E is the official fan club for Dale Earnhardt. It is a membership based fan club with three different levels based on contribution level (ranging from no fee to $49.99). Members of Club E have access to Dale Earnhardt footage, personal items, discounts at the DEI retail store, Carowinds, Kings Dominion, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Kannapolis Intimidators games, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet, and Great Wolf Lodge, Inc. and member only events. Club E is currently suspended but does offer a Facebook page for fans to follow to receive news
The Dale Earnhardt Foundation
The Dale Earnhardt Foundation was founded with a mission to continue the interests of Dale Earnhardt through charitable programs and grants reflecting Earnhardt's commitments to children, education and environment and wildlife preservation.
RAD Engine partnership
After the Fords were dominating the restrictor plate tracks in the late 1990s, Earnhardt, Richard Childress Racing, and Andy Petree Racing partnered up with each other and formed the RAD Engine Program. Their first win was at the 2000 Winston 500 with Dale Earnhardt. DEI won the 2001 Daytona 500, 2001 Pepsi 400, 2001 EA Sports 500, 2002 Aaron's 499, 2002 Pepsi 400, 2002 EA Sports 500, and the 2003 Daytona 500. RAD ended after Petree pulled out of the series in 2003 to focus on his Busch series program.
Earnhardt Childress Racing Technology
Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines (ECR) was formed in May 2007 with cooperation between DEI and Richard Childress Racing, developing and building engines common to the Chevrolet NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series teams. In mid-2008, a stand-alone facility north of Salisbury in Welcome, NC (off exit 85 of I-85) was completed. ECR employs 130 technicians. It participated in the 2010 Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 with Jamie McMurray, the 2011 Southern 500 with Regan Smith, Coca Cola 600 with Kevin Harvick, and Brickyard 400 with Paul Menard. The company is currently operated solely by RCR as ECR Engines, with DEI more focused on it's racing performance.
JR Motorsports, Richard Childress, and Wrangler
On April 29, 2010, at the time of Earnhardt's induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, DEI announced a partnership with JR Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, and Wrangler Jeans where, for one race, as a tribute to his father, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would drive the No. 3, the blue and gold race car driven by Dale Earnhardt in the 1980s. The car was raced in the Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway on 2 July 2010. It was the first Nationwide Series race in the Car of Tomorrow event. Earnhardt Jr. started third, led for thirty-three and won the race. This was his first competitive NASCAR Nationwide win since 2008. Meeting him in Pit Road first was, naturally, his father, with his signature grin to boot.
In 2007, DEI made a driver development contract with Morgan-Dollar Motorsports to provide trucks for developing drivers starting in 2007. To this day, the partnership continues to thrive and the Morgan-Dollar trucks have many wins under their belts, and one driver, Regan Smith, made it to the Sprint Cup where he continues to compete today.
Expansion & Acquires (including Chip Ganassi)
Nearing the end of the 2010 season DEI announced that Phoenix Racing would be made a Subsidiary of the company. The No. 09 of Aric Almirola went to Richard Petty Motorsports for the 2011 season, renumbering to the No. 44, instead of remaining in Phoenix Racing.
Travis Carter Enterprises
Travis Carter Enterprises had been struggling since it's founding. When it announced it's final closing just prior too the 2007 season, DEI stepped in, buying all of the company's final assets, including almost anything a new startup team would need. Speculation arose that it had been bought for a Truck Series team under DEI. Just prior to the 2008 season (in both series), the company was announced to be moving to ARCA beginning in the 2008 season.
The company was promptly moved to be an ARCA Racing Series team and the company's ownership was handed to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The company was renamed to Dale Jr. Racing Team. Dale Sr. said this would be a learning experience for his son about managing a company, for when he would inherit DEI someday.
Furniture Row Racing
It was announced at the end of the 2012 season that Furniture Row Racing had been acquired for 2013 by Chip Ganassi Racing to expand the team. Chip Ganassi Racing picked up Regan Smith (who had formerly driven the 01 for DEI a few seasons prior) and Joe Nemechek (who was happy Furniture Row was gone, as he didn't like the way the team treated him prior to this merging) who was allowed to race full time. Furniture Row, the company, continued to sponsor the cars until 2015.
DEI announced that as of 2014 it would be entering the Xfinity Series by buying JD Motorsports. The JD Motorsports name, management and drivers, however would remain intact; the only difference would be they'd be a subsidiary of DEI. Jeremy Clements Racing would also be merging into JD Motorsports, as Jeremy decided he'd be better developed with a bigger team with better funding. The team was renamed Dale Earnhardt Inc. for the 2017 season.
DEI continues to be a powerhouse in NASCAR, especially with it's upper-level partnership with Chip Ganassi. Its only real competition is Hendrick Motorsports. Dale's been quoted in an interview about DEI as saying, "We never know what the future holds, but we can try and shape its outcome."