Junior doesn't think No. 8 gone for long

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he's disappointed that the No. 8 Chevrolet was shut down, but he understands why it happened. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing parked the car and driver Aric Almirola, due to a lack of sponsorship.

Earnhardt Jr. made the No. 8 one of the most beloved car numbers in NASCAR while driving under that number at Dale Earnhardt Inc. for eight seasons. He won 17 races in the car with Budweiser as the sponsor.

"I'm pretty sad about it," Earnhardt said Friday outside his hauler. "But I don't think it will be gone for long. That number has a lot of history. The eight will be back and someone will add to it."

Earnhardt said he hopes the number stays at EGR so Almirola can get back in the car.

"I read a lot of the input on it all week," Earnhardt said. "I wouldn't ever count them out. I wish them success to get the car funded so Aric can get back on the track. He's a super guy and needs to be out on the track with us."

Earnhardt and Hendrick Motorsports tried to purchase the No. 8 from Teresa Earnhardt, the co-owner of EGR and Earnhardt Jr.'s stepmother, before Earnhardt Jr. left Dale Earnhardt Inc., now EGR, for Hendrick in 2007. But Teresa would not sell the number.

"If I was in her shoes, I probably would have done the same thing," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I don't have any malice about Teresa's decision on keeping that number. I really wasn't as upset about it as everyone thought I was. It wasn't as ugly a situation as a lot of people felt like it was."

Earnhardt Jr. selected the No. 8 when he started his Sprint Cup career because his grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt, used the number. Junior races under the No. 88 at Hendrick, but admits he loved the No. 8.

"I wish I never would have had to change numbers," he said. "I had to under the circumstances. I'm happy to have the opportunity to use the 88 and I hope to do a good job with it for all the guys that have used it in the past."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com.