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New Number On Horizon for Junior

New Number On Horizon for Junior

New Number On Horizon for Junior
Earnhardt Jr. will race a new number for the first time in his Cup career.

Hendrick Motorsports will not have the ability to field No. 8 entries for Dale Earnhardt Jr. when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver joins the organization in 2008.

"We've been working hard to secure the No. 8 for Dale Jr.'s car number next season," said Marshall Carlson, general manager of Hendrick Motorsports. "Obviously, he has a tremendous history with that number, and we know how important it is to his fans. Unfortunately, we couldn't reach a point where the terms made sense, and now we have to move forward with other options.

"We appreciate the efforts of Max Siegel and his team (at Dale Earnhardt Inc.), and are excited about unveiling our plans for 2008 in the near future."

No timetable has been set for an announcement of Earnhardt's car number or team sponsor.

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Re: New Number On Horizon for Junior

Junior: Deal for 8 scuttled by Teresa's bid for control

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. had seen this movie before, and he knew how it was going to end. He wanted the 8. He went after the 8. But deep down, he knew he would never get it.

"Personally, I sort of planned for this," he said. "I've been in these negotiations with the same person before, and they've never worked out in our favor. I knew this was the way it was going to be. I just didn't have the guts to tell my fans. They were holding out and hoping it would work out. I didn't have the guts to tell them it was just a waste of time hoping that would happen."

That much became evident this week, when Hendrick Motorsports announced that Earnhardt's trademark car number will not follow NASCAR's most popular driver from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to his new home for 2008. (read more) Despite the work of his sister and manager, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, despite the help of DEI president Max Siegel, the quest was scuttled for the same reason Earnhardt Jr. was unable to obtain an ownership share of the organization his late father founded.

Teresa Earnhardt refused to give up control. Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday at Michigan International Speedway that his stepmother, who owns DEI, wanted a share of licensing revenues from the number. Earnhardt Jr. even offered to return the No. 8 to DEI after he retired from driving, but ultimately negotiations fell apart in an episode that further underscored the growing bitterness of the division between the driver and his father's widow.

"I'm not going to sit here and get personal about this. The personal stuff is way far away from the racetrack. It's upsetting as hell, and unfortunate. But you know, that's just what happens sometimes. Like I say, I kind of had an idea that we were going to come down this road and have to take another turn. I knew this was the way it was going to happen. I'm not really all that surprised," he said.

"I knew I wasn't going to get the number a long time ago, but you wait and wait and wait. Kelley is working, trying to talk to Max, and Max is trying to help. Max tried his butt off to try and make it work, to talk some sense into [Teresa]. But she either feels too personal about the number, or the rift between me and her is too personal. I can totally understand. If I were in her shoes, I would probably be inclined to keep the number myself. But I will say that Max tried really, really hard. We had a deal that if we did get the number, I'd get him a set of golf clubs made by adidas. Unfortunately, he won't be getting his clubs."

History wasn't on Earnhardt's side. While car numbers are owner by NASCAR, they're distributed to car owners, and traditionally stay in the same shop even if a driver leaves. That's what happened at Roush Fenway Racing, which kept the No. 6 even after Mark Martin, the driver who made it famous, moved on.

"I know it is standard procedure for the owners to build equity in the number. That's what stays with them," said Martin, who now drives part-time for DEI. "The drivers take their superstardom wherever they may, when you make that choice to go. Dale Earnhardt won the rookie of the year and his first championship in the No. 2, then raced the No. 15, and then he raced the No. 8 on [Busch] cars all through the '80s. If you do the history instead of look at the last five or seven years, if you do the history and present it, then there's a whole different thing to it besides race fans.

"Dale Jr. made a choice to make a change in his career, to change his path and to give it a new start and to go put himself in a position to go win his first championship, and I think that's great. But that also came with the chance that the number would stay with Dale Earnhardt Inc., where it has been since 1984."

Jeff Gordon can imagine a similar reaction from car owner Rick Hendrick -- Earnhardt Jr.'s new boss beginning next season -- if he asked to take his trademark No. 24 with him to another team.

"If I said, 'I'd like to take the 24 with me,' he would laugh at me," Gordon said. "You know, I understand if Teresa wants to keep the 8 and use the 8. I think it's going to make it very tough for any other driver to get behind the wheel of that car, and I think if she doesn't use the 8, I think that it's really a shame that he wasn't able to get it. But as long as she used it, she thinks there's as much a tie to it with DEI than anything, then I understand why they wouldn't want to let go of it."

But it also has a tie to Earnhardt Jr., one much deeper and more personal than the numeral on apparel worn by his fans. He chose the 8 because his grandfather Ralph raced it, because of its significance within the family history. He intimated Saturday that his new number at Hendrick will have an 8 somewhere in it. "Hold on. Hang tight," he said, when asked about all those fans with No. 8 tattoos.

"I'm definitely going to look at some 80s and things like that. That's just common sense," he said. "I want a number that I'm going to like, and it's going to be a number I like and one I design. I'll design the shape and the look. It will be mine, and we'll build a new identity with that. Starting with such a clean page next year anyway, maybe it's for the best, sort of a lesson in disguise to make that clean break.

"Because when I walk away from DEI, I wanted no ties whatsoever. If I was to get the 8, and allow Teresa to have limited control of it, I'd still have to deal with her, and that wasn't what I wanted. We have to let the 8 go, and we have to get something new."

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