It took more than nine years, but the No. 8 finally is back in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric will make his Cup debut April 21 during the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday. And when he does, he’ll be driving a car adorned with the No. 8, which was made famous by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who drove the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc. from 1999-2007.

Aric Almirola and Mark Martin combined to drive 43 races in the No. 8 from 2008-2009, the last time the number appeared on NASCAR’s highest level. Hemric’s No. 8 Chevy, which will be sponsored by Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff, won’t feature the same stylized number as the one synonymous with Earnhardt, as DEI still owns the trademark for it.

“It’s an incredible opportunity with the 8 car coming back into the Cup Series,” Hemric told, via RCR. “Richard Childress told me at the beginning of 2017, he said listen, let’s try to build something here, let’s try to make sure we can get you to your goals and let’s try to figure out a way to get you to the top tier of this sport. He’s held true to his word and to everyone who’s backed me and supported me to this point.”

Hemric, like Earnhardt, grew up in Kannapolis, N.C. And to say he’s honored to follow in a local legend’s footsteps would be a huge understatement.

“I drove by DEI every single day, Hemric said. “It was a reminder of this guy, Dale Earnhardt, who grew up in this same town, the same area. “He went from working in the plant, to short-track racing, to become this sport‘s icon and here I am driving by his place every single day. It’s a reminder that if you keep working, what you can have out of life.

“It was very special to have that right here in my backyard and to know I’m trying to make that same mark in this sport.”

Hemric is scheduled to run two cup races this season. In addition to April’s race at Richmond, he’ll compete Sept. 30 in the Bank of America 500, which will be held on the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Thumbnail photo via Richard Childress Racing