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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Is Jr. becoming the “fourth team” at Hendrick Motorsports?

When Mark Martin was struggling early in the season, I questioned whether the Hendrick team was providing Martin with adequate equipment to be competitive with his superstar teammates and the other heavy hitters in the series.

I questioned whether the “fourth team” #5 was receiving the same consideration as Jeff Gordon’s #24, Jimmie Johnson’s #48 and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s #88.

I was wrong. Martin is no longer the fourth team -- the #88 car has now taken that honor.

Before Jr. Nation starts accusing me of bashing their driver, recognize that I’m not saying Jr. is a terrible driver. I’m also not saying he’s just getting by on his name, and I’m not saying that his crew chief is terrible.

What I am saying is that he’s not keeping up with his teammates, and not living up to what he should be doing in a car put together by an organization as top-notch as Hendrick. Whether it’s fair or not, you have to be judged in comparison to the best. Right now, the best includes all three of his teammates – who are all likely to be in the Chase competing for the title.

Even among Jr. Nation right now, I don’t think anyone is overly confident he will be there competing with them. Whether it’s pit road problems, hitting the wall or just ill-handling racecars in general, Jr. is not running a Chase-quality season right now.

In essence, he has become the “fourth team,” the one that doesn’t measure up to his teammates.

Talladega, a track where Jr. has 5 of his 18 career wins, would be a good place to turn his season around, because so far it hasn’t been pretty. He’s 19th in points and going in reverse.

For those who would say I’m being too harsh on Jr., I say look at the numbers and facts. Jr.’s teammates are all winning this year, and he isn’t. They’re getting solid finishes, and he isn’t most weeks. Two top-10 finishes in eight weeks aren’t the statistics you see from someone who will be competing for a title.

I have nothing against Jr., and think it would be great for the sport if he could become a Cup champion. But the way things are going, the chances of it happening this year are slim to none.


Anonymous yankeegranny said...

Doubt that he is going to be a contender as long as we have the JR/JR show. With the JR/SR show, a big maybe. Do you think that the reason there hasn't been a crewchief change is that there isn't a top-notch crewchief available right now?

April 20, 2009 at 9:17 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, I'm not a big Jr fan at all but I hope he does win this week just to shut the media up. Last week (after the 24 won) there were numerous stories speculating if the 5 and 88 teams were second rate members of HMS. Now Martin wins to discredit that idea and everyone latches on to the idea that the 88 is the redheaded step child at HMS.
There is no incentive for HMS to have Jr not running well. He is a cash cow for the organization and him running well would benefit all 4 teams in the long run. People need to face the fact that it is harder than ever to win one of these races. You not only have to be good - fast car, good pitstops, no mechanical issues, etc.- but you have to be very lucky. The stars have to align.
Some of the mistakes that have hampered Jr this year have nothing to do with the equipment so just give it a break.

April 20, 2009 at 9:17 AM 
Blogger Matt Myftiu said...

To Yankeegranny:

I don't think it's just a crew chief problem. But something definitely isn't working on that team. If I could tell you what it is, I'd probably be working for Hendrick Motorsports and making a lot more money.

If this keeps up, I think they will be forced to change crew chiefs, though.

April 20, 2009 at 10:22 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 88 team is not "becoming" the fourth team at HMS, it IS the fourth team. The 5, 24 and 48 have long been the cars at Hendrick. The 88 is the new addition, replacing the 25 car.
I also want to comment on how you went way out of your way to not offend any of the Jr Nation in this article. Why do you care what a bunch of whining little girls think? The media and NASCAR's constant belief that Junior is the glue that holds the entire sport together is one of the reasons it finds itself in the position it currently is in. I have no problem with anyone who wants to be Junior's fan. Personally, I like drivers who are more than somebody's marketing platform, but that's another subject. All I can say is that real fans of stock car racing know the difference between real talent and manufactured hype.

April 20, 2009 at 11:00 AM 
Anonymous Ken said...

Jr. just doesn't have his head in the races. He's missing his pit but hitting the wall. He doesn't give the crew chief information to adjust the car for better handling. Screaming and yelling on the radio doesn't do any good. The excuse used to be that it was an inferior team and/or crew chief. They changed crew chiefs and it got worse. He changed teams and he is still struggling. They have changed everything but the driver and it hasn't fixed the problem. Wonder where the problem is?

April 20, 2009 at 11:07 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you imagine the mess DEI would have been in had Theresa capitulated and let Jr. have 51%?

Jr. would have kept the same crew intact that he has now and it would be, as is the 88, a terrible failure.

If Jr. can't succeed, and apparently he can't, with the equipment and opportunity the HMS has afforded him, then he will not succeed at all.

April 20, 2009 at 4:40 PM 
Anonymous ryan said...

I have said this all season, and last season. Dale jr. needs Tony Eury SR. Eury sr gave jr a voice of discipline he was the authorative firgure that obviously jr still needs, plus all the wins came with Eury sr. Hendrick needs to make the call switch them for a few races and see. Eury sr, would talk with the 48 and 24 for set-ups and any info. things would turn around

April 20, 2009 at 6:52 PM 
Blogger Robert said...

Quote: "Can you imagine the mess DEI would have been in had Theresa capitulated and let Jr. have 51%?"

Well, at least there might still be a DEI.

April 22, 2009 at 3:03 PM 

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