Sources: Martin, Almirola may split No. 8 next season

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Serious discussions are underway at Dale Earnhardt Inc. to place Mark Martin and Aric Almirola in a split role in an Army-sponsored No. 8 Chevrolet in 2008, sources close to DEI told ESPN.com on Thursday.

DEI president Max Siegel said nothing has been finalized.

"If there's anyone that would represent Dale Earnhardt Inc. and what the No. 8 means to this company it would be Mark Martin," Siegel said. "But there has been no official decision made on this yet."

Martin and Almirola officially begin sharing time in the No. 01 Chevy -- acquired by DEI in its recent merger with Ginn Racing -- this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, as Almirola makes his debut in the machine in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Martin had previously run a split schedule with Regan Smith, who is still scheduled to run the machine at Loudon, N.H., next month.

Sources explained that Army ran the No. 01 at Ginn in conjunction with its "An Army of One" marketing initiative, but given that that program has since been abandoned in favor of the new "Army Strong" slogan, the number change doesn't overtly affect Army's marketing focus.

A Martin/Almirola split schedule in 2008 would leave the door open for another driver, possibly Greg Biffle, to join DEI full-time in 2009.

Biffle currently has a contract with Roush Fenway Racing through the end of the 2008 season but has been speculated to be a candidate as Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s permanent replacement in the No. 8.

It is uncertain at this point what this would mean for the No. 01, though sources say DEI "has several options" for that team.

Marty Smith covers Nextel Cup racing for ESPN.com.