Making the Best of a Bad Situation: Martin/Almirola Are a Success

Heath HeidemannCorrespondent INovember 16, 2008

The summer of 2007 will live in the memories of any Dale Earnhardt Incorporated fan for years to come.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat before the media and announced his departure from the company his father had built, vacating the sponsor and car that he had made famous.

As fans fled from DEI in droves, most couldn't help but laugh at the thought of someone else even TRYING to fill the seat of the now vacant number eight.

Doing what was probably the best move that they could have possibly done, DEI named Mark Martin to be the driver for a majority of the 2008 season in the car.

There was no other person in NASCAR that could have taken that seat and not be severely criticized or scrutinized.

DEI also named Aric Almirola to run the races that Mark Martin would not drive, but were smart in this move too. They would have Martin run the first four races, enough to take the edge off of the new drivers of the car.

Martin ran the car for 24 of the races, finishing with four top fives, and eleven top tens. Almirola ran the rest of the schedule, finishing in the top ten only once, but committing just one DNF (did not finish).

The combined effort of the two drivers net a fourteenth place finish in owner points for the team, the best team in Dale Earnhardt Incorporated's stable. They also finished two positions better than the 2007 season, when Dale Junior finished in sixteenth.

Mark Martin now moves on from the company to join Hendrick Motorsports. He leaves the car in the capable hands of Almirola. Sponsor U.S. Army also leaves the team, and a merger with Chip Ganassi is well underway.

Despite all of the changes on the horizon, they can look back on the season as a success.

The transition of power couldn't have been executed any better.