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Monday, June 29, 2009

Yes, that was Dale Earnhardt Jr. racing up front

At one point during the race at New Hamphire Sunday, I thought I was having a flashback. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on a tear and battling for positions in the top 3. Instead of running mid-pack, he was up front with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch.

As I watched this, I realized that it was hard for me to remember the last time that happened at a non-restrictor plate track. Let’s just say it’s been a while.

He ended up in 13th place, and while that isn’t exactly a reason to throw a party, what is important is that Jr. is running strongly and gaining confidence. He is sharing information with his crew chief, rather than arguing with him, and Lance McGrew is using that information to make sure the car stays strong or gets better through the race.

At this point, he is not going to make the Chase and contend for the title in 2009. But if Jr. wants to do that in 2010, he has to continue to build his confidence and build his relationship with his new crew chief. When you look at all the great drivers who have won a lot of races and titles, there is always a great driver-crew chief relationship (Johnson-Knaus, Gordon-Evernham, Stewart-Zipadelli, etc.)

Jr. needs to develop this type of relationship with McGrew if he wants to be a success on the level of his championship-winning teammates.

So far, it looks like he’s off to a good start, but there’s still plenty of work to do. What Jr. needs to keep in mind is that he used to win when he was at DEI, and there’s no reason he can’t start to win again, considering he is driving for the best team in NASCAR.

Another silly Danica rumor
The latest silly Danica rumor has her going to Hendrick Motorsports … in a Cup ride!! It’s so silly I can’t believe someone actually wrote it, but it’s out there so I must react. The rumor was Danica getting a ride at Hendrick, with JR Motorsports moving up to Cup so Dale Jr. could move there for 2010.

This is just madness. With all the work Hendrick has enlisted from his entire organization to get Jr.’s team back into shape this season, do you honestly thing Hendrick will let Jr. go off and be part of a satellite team, a la Stewart-Haas? Danica might bring money with her if she came to NASCAR, but she’s still not Dale Jr.

Beyond all that, the sponsorship agreement Jr. has with Hendrick probably make it a bit difficult to just shuffle him over to a satellite team.

And the idea that Danica Patrick could just jump into a Cup car without any stock car training in Nationwide or Trucks is just ludicrous. Hendrick would look like a fool when she took everybody out at Daytona on the first lap of the 500.

Unfortunately, these rumors will continue to be presented for months, because Patrick plans to finish her Indycar season before announcing her decision about next year, when she will likely say she’s moving to Chip Ganassi’s operation and staying in Indycar.

Bass Pro staying at Earnhardt-Ganassi
Some unexpected good news came out of the EGR team this week, when they said sponsor Bass Pro Shops would stay on the #1 car when Martin Truex Jr. likely leaves for Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the season. That means they will have an open ride that is funded, and can be on the lookout for the best free agent to fill that seat and be a teammate to Juan Pablo Montoya.

The bad news is that this year is pretty weak for free agents. Unless they can work a deal to get someone out of a contract early, the best they can really hope for is to get someone like Jamie McMurray, who might want to move on rather than shifting to a Yates Racing team when Roush has to trim his squadron to four cars.

Red Bull teammates at odds
After being wrecked by Scott Speed on the final lap of the Nationwide race at New Hampshire (which, big shock, was won by Kyle Busch), Brian Vickers did something rarely done in NASCAR – he called out his own Cup teammate, blasting him for the accident and joking that Speed might have done it because he was so frustrated at “how bad he runs” in the Cup series.

I’m not sure how these two get along normally, but that kind of attack between teammates is never good for a team. And for the record, they were both bad on Sunday, finishing 35th and 36th after separate accidents.

A bad race at Richmond?
My Tivo didn’t catch the Indycar race at Richmond, but apparently it was the worst race ever, with essentially no passing and 20 cars just following each other around for a couple of hours. It was so bad, the guy who won the race, Scott Dixon, called it “a bit of a procession, unfortunately,” and runner-up Dario Franchitti was more blunt, calling it an “awful, awful race”.

I didn’t think it was possible to have a boring race at Richmond, but apparently the IRL found a way to make it happen.


Anonymous rakeback said...

I think Dale Jr. is the most overrated sports figure. The man has never even contended for a championship, and once again he didnt even make the chase. He is covered solely on the basis of who his father is.

October 5, 2009 at 1:21 PM 

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