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Ginn will make a run at Junior

Bobby Ginn bought a majority ownership of the former MB2 Motorsports last summer and vowed to spend the money to build it as big as his sprawling Reunion-based real estate development enterprise.

By BRANT JAMES
Published May 13, 2007


DARLINGTON, S.C. - Bobby Ginn bought a majority ownership of the former MB2 Motorsports last summer and vowed to spend the money to build it as big as his sprawling Reunion-based real estate development enterprise.

The Palm Coast resident invested in equipment, then in human talent by coercing veteran Mark Martin into a part-time Nextel Cup deal on his three-car team for this season. Now he's ready to shop for another asset: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"He's a winner, he's a competitor, he wants to win, and anybody who knows me knows I am in this thing to win, " Ginn said of Earnhardt, who announced on Thursday he would not return to Dale Earnhardt Inc. "We plan to be aggressive and (general manager) Jay (Frye) is aggressively putting all our efforts into our plan. We're committed to that, and having someone like Dale involved moves us forward years and years (ahead) of what our original plan was."

Ginn will levy what the soft property market allows against some of NASCAR's competitive and financial heavyweights, confirmed among them Richard Childress Racing and Penske Racing. Penske's affiliation with Dodge may not even let him in the sweepstakes, however.

Joe Gibbs Racing may not be either. Team president J.D. Gibbs said in the garage Saturday that he had no plans to speak with Earnhardt and sister/business manager Kelley Earnhardt Elledge about the possibility of making his team, which has won three titles since 2000, a four-car operation. Gibbs suggested a level of discomfort in bringing aboard everything that goes with Earnhardt's Budweiser sponsorship, considering his and his father's openly Christian beliefs. He also emphasized the difficulty of adding a fourth program.

"If the time is right, we could talk to them about (a contract), but right now I think we're just going to focus on what we're focusing on and let that fall where it may, " said Gibbs, who has several times said he expects Tampa native Aric Almirola to progress from the Busch Series to a Cup ride in the next few years.

Team owner Rick Hendrick - whose team is the only other that fits Earnhardt's checklist of championship-caliber and Chevrolet - was not at the track to clarify his position. Vice president of competition Ken Howes said Thursday that the team was "not looking."

Hendrick already has a four-car team, the limit by NASCAR rules, so he would have to finagle a fit for Earnhardt. Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, four-time champion Jeff Gordon and rising star Kyle Busch are all in the top six in driver points. Casey Mears is 34th with just one top 10 in his first season with the team.

Though Frye admits his team is not in that class, Ginn Racing has improved dramatically this year with engines leased from Hendrick. Martin finished second in the Daytona 500 and has four top 5s in seven starts.

Martin could eventually be one of the more important pieces Ginn has added. His credibility in the garage is impeccable, and his performance has done nothing but validate his decision to leave Roush Racing after 19 seasons for what once was an underfunded, middling team.

"He gets a huge amount of respect in this garage, so if he says this place is good, people believe it, " Frye said. "He's not just going to say that stuff. He's a reference that will come in handy at this point."

The team has other interesting connections to Earnhardt. Several of his friends work for the race team. Frye is from St. Louis, played football at Missouri, worked for Budweiser, and is friends with members of the August A. Busch IV family.

Ginn said his team would "dovetail perfectly" with Earnhardt's burgeoning Busch Series team. Dale Earnhardt Sr. raced for Childress while building Dale Earnhardt Inc. If they ever discuss a deal in person, Ginn will be tough to deny.

Ginn's wife, Michelle, said when her husband, a self-made multimillionaire who hammered roofs on houses as a teenager, bought 80 percent of MB2 that "when Bobby gets bit by a bug, it's pretty big."

"There's a lot of safer routes he could take, " Ginn said, "but I hope that he would see that we try harder."

SPARK PLUGS: NASCAR found that Earnhardt's No. 8 Chevrolet had an improperly mounted wing during prerace inspection. The team was made to reattached the wing and confiscated the original parts. He will be allowed to retain his 21st starting position.