Earnhardt Jr. Can't Keep Number 8

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced in May that he was cutting ties with Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI), the team that was started by his father.

Earnhardt will now be forced to sever ties with his infamous No. 8.

Earnhardt, who could not wrest control of DEI from his stepmother, could not get his number either. He is joining Hendrick Motor Sports next season and will get a totally fresh start with a new number as he starts with his new team.

NASCAR "owns" the car numbers and teams generally keep the same numbers year over year. The rule - Section 20 - 3.11 - reads, in part: All NASCAR Nextel Cup Series car numbers are owned by and will be assigned by NASCAR for use by the car owner. Car numbers are not transferable or assignable by the car owner.

"We've been working hard to secure the No. 8 for Dale Jr.'s car number next season," Hendrick Motorsports general manager Marshall Carlson said. "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."

Earnhardt has driven the No. 8 car since his Cup Series debut on May 30, 1999, at Charlotte. In 277 starts, the third generation driver has 17 wins, 73 top-five finishes and 117 top-10s.

Hendrick Motorsports announced no timetable for an announcement of Earnhardt's new car number or team sponsor.

A two-time Busch Series champion, Earnhardt has sported several numbers in that series with an 8 theme - 87, 8, 81 and, most recently, 88 on July 7 at Daytona.

"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's sister and general manager of JR Motorsports. "It was a difficult decision, but all of us agreed that it was best to move in another direction. 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.

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