CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Richard Childress, seeking ways to boost Dale Earnhardt's bid for a record eighth Winston Cup championship, has lured crew chief Larry McReynolds away from Robert Yates Racing.

McReynolds, whose cars have won 22 races in 11 years on stock car racing's top series, has agreed to join Richard Childress Racing next month as Earnhardt's crew chief, Childress said Friday. Terms of the multi-year deal were not released.

``We've lost races to cars that Larry has prepared,'' Earnhardt said. ``Needless to say I'm very glad to have him working with us instead of against us.''

Earnhardt has run on some relatively tough times since winning his second consecutive Winston Cup championship in 1994. It was the seventh title of his career, matching the now-retired Richard Petty for the most in history.

After losing out to Jeff Gordon in the battle for the 1995 driving title, Earnhardt faded to fourth this year, a distant 330 points behind champion Terry Labonte.

Earnhardt has 70 career Winston Cup victories but just two this year and none since the March event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a span of 27 races.

Enter McReynolds, 37, a soft-spoken, hard-working man with a reputation for providing calm leadership in an often-hectic sport.

``Larry is one of the most respected crew chiefs in Winston Cup racing,'' Earnhardt said. ``With his addition to RCR, I feel that another championship is closer than ever.''

McReynolds will be the third crew chief on Earnhardt's car in three seasons. Andy Petree left after the 1995 season and was replaced by David Smith, who had no previous experience as a Winston Cup crew chief. Smith next year will become the crew chief for a second car Childress is fielding, this one to be driven by Mike Skinner.

While the addition of McReynolds will give RCR a proven winner, it will create a leadership vacuum at Robert Yates Racing. McReynolds currently oversees the operations of both of Yates' Winston Cup cars _ driven by Ernie Irvan and Dale Jarrett _ and serves as Irvan's crew chief.

Yates was meeting with various RYR employees on Friday to discuss a possible successor to McReynolds.

McReynolds called the move ``one of the toughest and most difficult decisions that I've had to make.''

``Robert Yates and every member of Robert Yates Racing is very special to me,'' he said. ``The memories that we experienced together will never be forgotten. I wish them the best and hope they continue the success that we shared together.''

Sources told The Associated Press that McReynolds rejected Childress' initial offer, but reconsidered after several RCR employees _ including Earnhardt _ lobbied him during a recent exhibition several Winston Cup teams staged in Japan.

``The years with Larry McReynolds have been among the happiest of my life,'' Yates said. ``I'm proud of what we accomplished together.

``But Larry had expressed a lot of unhappiness this year, and I hope that this change will help him find that happiness again.''

McReynolds has been a crew chief for Winston Cup cars driven by Joe Ruttman, Morgan Shepherd, Ricky Rudd and Brett Bodine before joining Yates in 1991 and helping nurture Davey Allison into one of the sport's most promising drivers. Allison won 19 races before he was killed in a helicopter crash in July 1993.

Yates then turned to Irvan, who won five races before nearly losing his life in a crash during a practice run in August 1994 at Michigan International Speedway.

Jarrett filled in for Irvan last year, winning one race. Irvan returned to the series full time this year and won in July at New Hampshire International Speedway and again in September at Richmond International Raceway. He wound up 10th in the standings.