Sep 3, 2007
The Numbers GameBy JR Nerad
Back in my misspent youth, when I used to hang out at the Santa Fe Speedway outside of Chicago, I would frequently see some pretty oddball numbers emblazoned on the sides of the racecars -- numbers like 4Gone and K9. So, it is with great amusement that I witness (and participate in) the current flurry over Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s new number. What will replace the number 8 that Earnhardt's evil stepmother, Teresa, so heinously withheld from the Nextel Cup superstar? Goodness, we all have to know!
The ups-and-downs of this story, not to mention the twists and turns, would make a good blueprint for a carnival-style Mad Mouse. First, we heard that Junior was leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) and taking his number 8 with him. Then, the good folks at DEI said, "Not so fast there, Junior." Finally, the fine folks at NASCAR weighed in, saying DEI doesn't own the number; we do. At that point, it looked like Earnhardt the Younger would be able to retain his number 8, and all would be right with the world.
But that was before treachery reared its ugly head. The marvelous folks at NASCAR back-pedaled and wheedled -- something they are fairly good at -- essentially leaving the number 8 in the hands of DEI. There might have been some back-room negotiations at that point. ("How much is it worth to you, Junior?" etc., etc.) But ultimately, DEI decided to keep the number 8 for itself, likely to be emblazoned on a car that would be driven by Mark Martin and/or Aric Almirola (who, by the way, should not be confused with Eric Elmirola.)
Junior got a little testy at stepmother, Teresa, over the whole thing, and then changed his tune and said fans should cut Teresa some slack. There was some talk about Earnhardt the Lesser using the number 81 on his car next year, and then someone floated the idea of using the number 38, since Dale Earnhardt Sr. had legendary wins in the number 3 car and Junior has won a few himself in the aforementioned (to absurdity) number 8. The rub there is that David Gilliland currently uses that number, and he's got to be wondering, "How could I be roped into this stupid mess?"
In the interest of helping Junior out of this terrible conundrum -- what number, what number? We though we'd contribute a suggestion or two. One obvious choice is 88, which is certainly twice as good as 8. Then there is 3jr, a reference we don't feel needs further explanation. And finally, how about 38D, because what man among us doesn't like 38D?
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