Paul Menard Leaving D-E-I to Join Yates Racing in 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Paul Menard will leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the end of the season to drive for Yates Racing, The Associated Press has learned.

Menard announced Tuesday that both he and his sponsorship will move to Yates, a person familiar with Menard's decision told The AP. The person requested anonymity because Menard had yet to make his announcement.

The loss could ultimately cripple DEI because Menard's sponsor is his father's midwest-based hardware chain. The loss of driver and sponsor leaves DEI with just one full-time sponsor and three drivers signed for next season.

DEI is a four-car team this year, but has lacked full sponsorship for rookie Regan Smith's team all season.