For the first time in about a decade, the No. 8 is returning to the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series. Rookie Daniel Hemric will drive for Richard Childress Racing with the number best known for being used by NASCAR’s favorite son- Dale Earnhardt Jr. It’s the second time in recent history that RCR has employed a number once used by one of racing’s most iconic families.
Fortunately for Hemric, this move won’t raise nearly the eyebrows that the resurrection of the No. 3 did for Austin Dillon. While Dale Jr. was loved and highly regarded, Dale Earhardt Sr. was a giant of the sport a la Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan. His tragic death while still an active driver in the sport’s biggest race even furthered advance the notion that the no. 3 should have been retired from use. Add to the debate that the number went to the grandson of the team owner, and you can see where the critics would have a problem with it.
Childress is quick to point out that Daniel Hemric is a fitting recipient for the number most associated with Dale Jr. First- like the Earnhardts- Hemric is a native of Kannapolis, North Carolina. Second- unlike Dale Jr. or Austin Dillon- Daniel Hemric didn’t come up in part because of a famous last name. The 27-year old arrives on the scene with more of a blue collar persona, more like Dale Sr.
Way back in the day, two-time champion Joe Weatherly won 20 races with the digit in the early 60s, prior to his untimely death at Riverside in 1964. Between his success and Dale Jr.’s, the only winner in the Cup series with that number was Bobby Hillin Jr. in 1986. Junior used the number in honor of his grandfather Ralph- a racer of renown in the old Sportsmens Division.
From here, it seems fitting that an up and comer few have heard of- such as Daniel Hemric- get the number, instead of some highly hyped phenom. The case has been made for him having it- and now it’s time for Daniel Hemric to make something of it.