- Marty Smith, ESPN
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Gentlemen, start your tattoo guns.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start completely anew in 2008 -- new team, new sponsors and now, new car number.
Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports officials confirmed Wednesday in separate e-mail statements to ESPN.com that they were unable to reach an agreement with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. to bring the No. 8 to HMS with Earnhardt.
"We've been working hard to secure the No. 8 for Dale Jr.'s car number next season," Hendrick GM 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.
"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."
Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, Junior's sister and business manager, echoed Carlson's thoughts.
"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," Elledge said.
"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."
Elledge said there is no specific timetable on announcing Earnhardt's new number. What number his car will carry has not yet been determined, but Earnhardt has told ESPN on multiple occasions his preference is 81. He has run 81 at times in the NASCAR Busch Series.
Earnhardt has driven the No. 8 his entire Nextel Cup career.
DEI officials were not immediately available for comment.
Marty Smith covers Nextel Cup for ESPN.com.
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