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Siegel called negotiations over the No. 8 'very complicated'

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Max Siegel, the president of global operations for Dale Earnhardt Inc., said he sympathizes with fans who wanted the No. 8 to go with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Hendrick Motorsports next season.

"I don't know what to say to the fans," Siegel said. "I certainly don't expect them to understand. But hopefully five years from now, people will say nice things about Dale Earnhardt Incorporated and this will be a part of our growth process."

DEI is keeping the number because DEI officials, Hendrick Motorsports and Earnhardt Jr. representatives couldn't reach an agreement on allowing Earnhardt Jr. to keep it.

Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday that DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt, his stepmother, was responsible for him not getting to keep the 8. Earnhardt Jr. said negotiations broke down when Teresa asked for part of the licensing revenue if the 8 went to Hendrick.

"I definitely am not going to get into the details of the discussion or any personal discussions about Dale vs. Teresa," Siegel said. "It was very complicated.

"The emotional charge to this whole situation tells you how complex the discussions are. I have no interest in reopening those discussions and debating them in the media."

Siegel was asked how DEI can overcome the negative feeling many fans have about not letting Earnhardt Jr. have the 8.

"I think by being patient and pressing through it and performing on the track," Siegel said "You have to ride the wave out. I stay consistently focused on our business plan. The fact of the matter is we're trying to be a world-class organization."

Earnhardt Jr. praised Siegel on Saturday, saying Siegel did all he could to convince Teresa to give up the 8.

"I don't want to get into what broke down," Siegel said. "Dale Jr. knows exactly how I feel about the situation. But I'm here to represent this company and this management team.

"The reality of the situation is when you have any sudden negotiations the best you can do is have open dialogue. Whether he said good things or not about me, I've been very open and transparent with him."

Siegel said his frustrations started when Earnhardt Jr. decided to leave DEI.

"Unfortunately he didn't stay," Siegel said. "But we're going to build on the high standard and legacy that Dale Sr. and Teresa built this company on."

"I understand [Earnhardt Jr.'s] frustration and his disappointment. We share similar disappointment in the way the future is going, but we are going to do everything we can to represent Dale Earnhardt Incorporated in a positive way."

Siegel confirmed that DEI will use the No. 8 next season: "If we didn't have plans to run the 8, then we wouldn't have gone through this whole exercise."

The big question now is who will drive the No. 8 Chevy next season.

"I'll answer that in about a week," Siegel said smiling. "I don't have a formal announcement planned, but we want to have our driver lineup set in a week or two so we can move forward."

Regan Smith is considered the leading candidate for the job, but Siegel said the organization has several options.

Siegel also said the team is prepared to move forward with a new sponsor if Budweiser leaves. Budweiser is expected to move to Gillett Evernham Motorsports next year on Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Dodge.

"We've had to come up with contingency plans in the event [Budweiser] isn't with us," Siegel said. "We're solid with sponsorship. We will go into next year with four fully-funded Cup cars."

Siegel said DEI is "way down the road" to re-signing with Chevrolet for next year. Richard Childress Racing announced a new deal with Chevrolet on Saturday. DEI and RCR recently formed an engine-building partnership.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.