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Friday, October 3, 2008

Dega is best chance for Dale Jr. to make a points move

This is Dale Jr.’s track.

Talladega has been very kind to Dale Jr. since he started in NASCAR’s top division. He has five wins, seven top-5s and 10 top-10s in 17 starts at the track, and has led a total of 616 laps.

He picked up right where his dad left off. Most fans remember Sr.’s breathtaking drive in fall of 2000 when he passed 16 cars in four laps to take his final career win. Soon after that, his son took over as the track’s best driver. He was a beneficiary of the knowledge of the “RAD” group -- where Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt and Andy Petree’s teams shared aerodynamic information between the three teams. (In fact, it was Petree’s driver Kenny Wallace who pushed Sr. to the win in 2000)

Now it’s a new era. Dale Jr. is at Hendrick Motorsports, who have taken over as the best team on restrictor plate tracks. So if you combine the best team on these tracks with Jr., one of the best plate track drivers, it’s a no-brainer he’s a contender to win.

On the downside, he will be in a backup after a violent tire blowout in practice ruined his primary car as well as several other cars in the process. But this is still Talladega, which might as well be called Earnhardt Speedway, so it’s not too much of a concern that he’s in a backup car. Practice is pretty much worthless at these tracks anyway, as it’s basically just drafting practice, something Jr. doesn't really need.

As far back in the points as Jr. is, his best bet to get in title contention is to win Sunday, and hope that some of the drivers ahead of him in the points standings have trouble. There are a lot of people ahead of him and it‘s unlikely, but this is Talladega and anything can happen.

They say that at plate tracks, the best way to avoid the big wreck is to be out front. Based on his history, that shouldn’t be a problem for Jr.

He needs to make a move this week, or you can stick that fork all the way into his title hopes.

Helio handcuffed … say it ain’t so
With his infectious smile, great attitude and tremendous racing talent, it’s hard not to like Indycar driver and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. But he may have done something very stupid that could land him behind bars … defraud Uncle Sam.

This week, he had to undergo the embarrassing spectacle of being escorted into a Miami court in handcuffs and leg irons, where he pleaded not guilty to charges he used a shell corporation in Panama to hide more than $5 million in income from his racing career and endorsements. His sister and lawyer also face charges.

I hope it’s not true and he is acquitted, but it if is true it will be yet another manifestation of what happens when people become too greedy or arrogant about their wealth. Helio has lived a wonderful life that we would all love to have … doing what he loves to do and making tons of money in the process.

If he’s convicted, he’ll join the ranks of other famous people like Wesley Snipes and "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch, who just weren’t happy enough with their wealth and wanted to push it and see how much they could keep from Uncle Sam, regardless of legality. It’s not worth it, as I’m sure Helio realized when he was sitting there shackled in court.

Tough lesson for Logano
After a career full of instant success in almost every series he’s entered, young Joey Logano is seeing his first serious struggles after running two Cup races in the #96 Hall of Fame Racing car. Everyone knew going in that it was a backmarker car, but it’s just been downright terrible and Logano has yet to get even a top-30 finish.

As a result, Joe Gibbs has pulled him from running in the #96 in more races this year, and Ken Schrader will likely finish out the year in that car. Logano will likely attempt at least one race this season in a Joe Gibbs-prepared #02 car. This is the best move for Logano, as they shouldn’t shake his confidence by putting him in a car that’s going to be one of the first ones lapped, regardless of who’s driving.

But there is a big lesson Logano and the Gibbs organization need to learn from this experience. In order for him to be a Cup winner and champion, he’s going to have to get better at communicating to his crew chief about what’s going wrong with the car so they can fix it during the course of a race. I have a feeling he hasn’t had to do this much, and has focused solely on driving. But a true champion is full-time driver and part-time mechanic, and can let his team know what to fix so they can get to Victory Lane.


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