NASCAR & Auto Racing

Mears to drive No. 5; will Dale Jr. take No. 25?

Hendrick Motorsports announced some details on Tuesday regarding the arrival of Dale Earnhardt Jr. into its stable of drivers next season.

What wasn't addressed is what could prove the most interesting.

Hendrick first-year driver Casey Mears will move from the No. 25 team to the No. 5 next season, replacing Kyle Busch, who will move to Joe Gibbs Racing. Alan Gustafson, Busch's crew chief, will become Mears' crew chief with the No. 5.

What was left unresolved by Hendrick's announcement was the future of the No. 25. The team has special meaning for team owner Rick Hendrick. It was first owned by his late father, "Papa" Joe Hendrick.

Could Earnhardt Jr. drive Hendrick's No. 25? It's possible. Hendrick officials have declined comment during Earnhardt Jr.'s number and sponsor search.

Last week, federal trademark records showed Hendrick had made inquiries about the use of several new numbers, including the 82, 38 and 51. But Hendrick has had the No. 25 trademarked all along.

In other changes, Darian Grubb, who is Mears' crew chief this season for the No. 25, will move into a senior competition role with the organization in 2008. Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief at Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Eury Jr., will join him next season after signing a multi-year contract with the organization.

"Tony Jr. and Dale have a successful history working together," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "They have trust in each other, which is the biggest part of the relationship between driver and crew chief.

"We have the utmost confidence in their ability to win races and compete for titles at Hendrick Motorsports."

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