Congratulations, Teresa (Earnhardt). You've successfully run your late husband's winning organization into the ground."

That message, and thousands like it, are jamming Internet bulletin boards as NASCAR fans get word that the No. 8 Sprint Cup Chevy, the centerpiece of Dale Earnhardt Inc. before its merger with Chip Ganassi Racing, is the latest casualty of the economy.

Officially, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has announced that the organization is parking the car driven by Aric Almirola until sponsorship is found. That leaves EGR with two full-time drivers in Martin Truex Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Primary sponsor U.S. Army left EGR to move to Stewart-Haas Racing and the No. 8 car has raced this year only on short-term deals. It is a tough situation for Almirola, the latest driver behind the wheel of the car in NASCAR Sprint Cup series competition.

Almirola was slated to take over the ride fulltime in 2008, but with the return of Mark Martin to the series, Almirola had to sit out most of that season. Almirola remains under contract with EGR, although his fate is uncertain without sponsorship.

It's a sad irony for fans of the late Dale Earnhardt and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Who can forget the hoopla when Junior announced he was leaving what was then Dale Earnhardt Inc. to go to his present job at Hendrick Motorsports? Much was made of the failed effort for Earnhardt to take the fabled No. 8 with him to his new team, ending up instead with the No. 88.


Now the No. 8 will be absent from the track indefinitely.

The senior Earnhardt made only one Cup series start in the No. 8, but it was an important one -- his series debut in the 1975 Coca-Cola 600. His father, Ralph Earnhardt, drove the No. 8 in the 1950s and '60s in Sportsman competition. Junior carried on the Earnhardt legacy with the number, making 291 starts in the No. 8 from 1999-2007.

But it wasn't just the Earnhardts who made the No. 8 famous. In fact, a case could be made that the greatest driver ever behind the wheel of the No. 8 was Joe Weatherly, who made 110 starts in the No. 8 between 1961-64, winning 20 times and capturing back-to-back Cup series championships in 1962 and '63.

I know I'd have a hard time convincing "Junior Nation" of that. But I don't think they'd argue that it's a sad sign of the times when there is no No. 8 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Is it the fault of Teresa Earnhardt, Dale Sr.'s widow and Junior's stepmother?

While I need more information before I can blame her, there's little doubt that there are thousands -- maybe millions -- of NASCAR fans who already do.

Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for the Dispatch. She can be reached at esis