Earnhardt can’t keep his number

Published 6:52 pm Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not be taking his familiar No. 8 with him to Hendrick Motorsports next season.

Earnhardt is leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the end of the season and had hoped to take No. 8 with him to his new team. His late grandfather, Ralph, used that number and Earnhardt picked it when he entered the Cup Series in 1999.

Although teams do not own numbers — they are leased through NASCAR — DEI had the first right of refusal on the No. 8, and Hendrick officials said Wednesday they were unable to reach an agreement that would have made DEI pass on choosing the number for 2008.

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“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.”

Hendrick officials didn’t reveal what number Earnhardt will use when he starts his five-year deal with the team next season. His sponsor has also not been announced, but Hendrick officials said Budweiser will not be on his car.

Earnhardt is widely recognized with his red Bud car and number, so this turn of events will give him a fresh new look next season. But having to part with his grandfather’s number was difficult.

“Our hope was to carry the No. 8 with Dale Jr. to his new team, but the last proposal Hendrick Motorsports received from DEI just wasn’t viable,” said Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, his sister and business manager.

“It was a difficult decision, but all of us agreed that it was best to move in another direction,” she said. “There’s disappointment, of course, but we look forward to working with Hendrick Motorsports on what will be a great program for Dale Jr. and his fans in 2008.”