BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. blames his step-mother Teresa Earnhardt, the owner of Dale Earnhardt Inc., for not allowing the No. 8 to move with him to Hendrick Motorsports next season.
"She either feels too personal about the number, or the rift between me and her is too personal," Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday. "I'm not going to sit here and get personal about this. It's upsetting as hell and unfortunate, but that's just what happens sometimes."
Earnhardt Jr. said he never believed he would get the number when he made the decision to leave DEI at the end of this season.
"I'm not really all that surprised," he said. "I knew I wasn't going to get the number a long time ago."
But Earnhardt Jr. praised DEI president Max Siegel for his efforts in trying to make it happen. Earnhardt Jr. said Siegel worked closely with Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, Junior's sister and business manager.
"Max tried his butt off to make it work," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He was trying to talk to Teresa and get some sense into her."
Siegel said he had nothing to say about Earnhardt Jr.'s comments on Saturday, but added he might address them Sunday.
Teresa Earnhardt was not at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday. She rarely talks to the media.
Earnhardt Jr. said negotiations broke down when Teresa asked for part of the licensing revenue, along with wanting the number back after he retired.
"Just ridiculous kind of requests," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We just wanted the number, but I was willing to give the number back when I was done driving. I wouldn't have any use for it personally."
Earnhardt Jr. said he wanted the number to carry on a family legacy.
"I feel like it's an Earnhardt tradition because my grandfather and my dad used it a little bit, too," he said. "I'm using it right now, and I figured that we would be able to keep using it. But unfortunately we're not going to be able to."
Earnhardt Jr. is looking forward now. He said he is considering a number in the 80s for his new ride at Hendrick next season.
"That's just common sense," he said. "I want a number that I'm going to like. I'll design the shape and the look. We'll build a new identity with that."
Earnhardt is trying to look at the bright side.
"Maybe it's for the best," he said. "Maybe it's sort of a blessing in disguise to really make a clean break. If I was to get the 8 and allow Teresa to still have control over it, I would still have to deal with it. That is not what I wanted. I have to let it go."
Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.