Juniors Numbers Game

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Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his fans will have to accept the fact that Junior will have a new number next year for the first time in his NEXTEL Cup career.

Despite trying to work out an arrangement between DEI's Teresa Earnhardt and Junior's new team owner Rick Hendrick, the No. 8 will not be accompanying Earnhardt, Jr. to his new home next year.

The decision left Earnhardt, Jr. disappointed, but not complete surprised.

"It's her number, it's her decision, it's just unfortunate," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "My personal feelings are disappointment but like I said, I kind of knew that it was going to be hard to convince her to let us have it and that's the case."

But Earnhardt, Jr. had thought about what number he's ude if something couldn't be worked out between DEI and Hendrick Motorsports and is ready to move forward.

"We definitely were planning to have to go in this direction so we got our game together and whenever we decide and whatever we decide, I think that I'm going to be excited about it," he said. "I think my fans will be excited about it and we just kind of get over the idea that we're not going to be number 8 no more, which I'm fine with that, and hopefully my fans can do the same and we'll build on a new identity."

The number Earnhardt, Jr. is most concerned about these days is 12, as in the 12th and final transfer spot to make this year's "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup."

He came to Michigan 14th after another blown engine last week at Watkins Glen, his second in three weeks, and has his work cut out for him over the final four races before the "Chase" cut-off.

"With a few races left we're going to do the best we can," he said. "We'll show up with good cars just like we always do and hopefully we can put them in the bag, some of these other guys can have some trouble and we can gain on 'em."

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