Owners have rights, too, Teresa Earnhardt included
So Dale Earnhardt Jr. won't take the No. 8 with him to Hendrick Motorsports. What's the big deal? He'll still make a hauler full of cash selling his new product line, writes Terry Blount.
"Dale Jr. made a choice to get a new start and put himself in position to try to win a championship," Martin said. "I think that's great. But that also came with the chance the number would stay with DEI, where it has been since 1984.
"I raced against Dale Sr. wheel-to-wheel in the 1980s in the Busch Series when he was in a No. 8 car. That was Teresa and Dale Earnhardt's number for that team."
Martin's well-informed lecture also included a footnote about Dale Sr., who wasn't always in the black No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing
"Dale Earnhardt won his first championship in the No. 2," Martin said.
Earnhardt's first Cup title came in 1980 for Rod Osterlund. His other six championships were in the No. 3 for Childress. Childress hasn't used the 3 since Earnhardt's death in 2001.
Officially, all car numbers are owned by NASCAR and assigned to team owners. But owners typically keep the numbers as long as they are involved in the sport.
If you really want to know the history of NASCAR numbers through the years, Jim Hunter is the man to ask. Hunter, NASCAR's vice president of communications, has been doing this stuff for five decades.
So what's his take on the controversy of the 8?
"I totally agree with Mark," Hunter said. "I think Teresa Earnhardt is being unfairly judged on this issue."
Hunter listed specific examples involving some of NASCAR's legends.
"If you look back over the years, that's true even for an icon like Dale Sr. and the No. 3," Hunter said. "People who have been around a long time remember another icon, Junior Johnson, ran the 3 prior to Dale Sr.
"David Pearson is best known for the 21 car, but he also ran the No. 6, for Cotton Owens, that later became famous with Mark Martin."
The difference between then and now is money. Drivers back in the day weren't making tons of cash off licensing deals from selling model cars, T-shirts, jackets and caps with a number attached to them.
No one sells more than Junior, but so what? Now he gets to sell a whole new product line.
And don't lie. You 8 worshipers are going to buy it as fast as they can make it.Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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