Dale Earnhardt Incorporated was put in a difficult position of picking a driver to replace the popular Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the #8 car. There merger with Ginn racing earlier this year opened the door for them to put another popular driver in there famous #8 car. Mark Martin is one of the most respected and well liked drivers on the Nascar circuit and DEI could not pass up trying to alleviate some heat from the fans by putting him in the car that Junior vacated. Mark Martin who is now running only part time will split the ride with up and coming Aric Almirola.
The move of Mark Martin to the #8 car by DEI should help to save some negative fan reaction against DEI. DEI failed to resign Junior who is the most popular driver in Nascar. DEI also was asking too high of a price for the #8 when Junior’s new team Hendrick Motorsports asked about purchasing the number. Junior fans were undoubtedly going to give the next driver of the #8 a hard time. By putting Mark Martin in the ride, even if it is only part time, DEI can breathe a little easier. I can’t imagine Mark Martin getting booed for taking the number as Mark has always shown great respect towards Junior and the same holds true for Junior respecting Mark.
For those Junior fans that have a number 8 tattooed on their body or a room full of number 8 memorabilia it will be time to remove the tattoo or collect new memorabilia. Rumor has it that Junior will try to get another number with the 8. The number 83 possibly as that would combine his old number with the number his father made famous. It is also unknown who Junior’s new sponsor will be for next year as Bud will likely not continue to be his main sponsor.
Aric Almirola the other driver that will split the ride with Mark Martin is a up and coming young driver that should improve as the season goes on. Aric is in a great situation learning from the veteran and actually driving the same car and setups as Mark Martin will use. Aric is bound to get more boos and more of a negative response then Mark Martin for driving the 8. He is not yet respected or known by a lot of fans so he should be an easy target. Regardless many Junior fans will forget about there anger towards DEI when Junior wins his first race at Hendrick Motorsports.
DEI made a great choice to put Mark Martin in the number 8 car. He is so well liked by the Nascar community and the fans that it should not be as much of an issue as another driver in the 8 would be. The move to the 8 should be a good one for Mark Martin and Junior made a great move going to Hendrick. I expect both of them to win at least one race next year with Junior probably winning several and possibly his first Nextel Cup championship.