NASCAR & Auto Racing

Sources: DEI's No. 8 back on track next season with Martin, Almirola and Army sponsorship

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Barring a last-minute change, Nextel Cup Series veteran Mark Martin and rookie Aric Almirola will become the drivers of Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s No. 8 Chevrolet next season, The Charlotte Observer has learned.

Martin and Almirola, who currently drive the No. 01, which was acquired by DEI through a merger with Ginn Racing earlier this season, are also expected to be joined by sponsor Army next season in the No. 8, multiple sources said Thursday.

A formal announcement is expected within the next two weeks.

The Army had used the No. 01 while at Ginn because it was employing a marketing campaign called “An Army of One,” but has since abandoned that campaign for its new “Army Strong” slogan. Thus, a change in car number would not necessarily affect the Army’s marketing programs.

When asked about the possibility of Army, Martin and Almirola moving to the No. 8, DEI vice president John Story said Thursday nothing had been decided but that “anything and everything” was possible with the No. 8 team.

Almirola, 23, is making his Cup debut in the No. 01 this weekend at Bristol. He and Martin are expected to share the ride for the rest of the season, except at New Hampshire, where Ragan Smith is scheduled to take the wheel.

DEI and Hendrick officials recently announced that a deal could not be reached to allow the No. 8 to move to Hendrick with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. next season.

The driver and sponsor change to the No. 8 would leave the No. 01 without either next season. Smith and driver David Reutimann are considered front-runners for that team if a sponsor can be found, sources said.