Eury leaving DEI for Hendrick earlier than expected

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tony Eury Jr. will leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. for Hendrick Motorsports earlier than expected, team officials confirmed on Thursday.

Eury, who has been Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car or crew chief for all but one season since the two broke into the Nextel Cup Series in 2000, will step down after the Oct. 7 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He will be allowed to take four members of Earnhardt's No. 8 team with him under a deal made by DEI when it agreed to free him contractually to join Earnhardt at HMS in 2008.

DEI vice president John Story said he met with Eury's crew this week and only one person has mentioned leaving thus far.

Eury and Earnhardt could work together for HMS as early as the Car of Tomorrow test at Atlanta Motor Speedway following the Oct. 28 race in Georgia.

Tony Gibson, who replaced Eury during Eury's six-race suspension earlier this year, will complete the season with NASCAR's most popular driver.

Mark Martin will step into Earnhardt's No. 8 next year, bringing crew chief Ryan Pemberton and his entire crew with him from the No. 01 team. Gibson is a candidate to move to the No. 01 car that will be driven by Regan Smith.

"Tony Gibson needs an opportunity to get his team together,'' said Max Siegel, the president of global operations at DEI.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.