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Monday, November 30, 2009

Dale Jr., Harvick among biggest disappointments of 2009

Every year in NASCAR, there are winners and there are losers.
Often the losers will be the drivers we all expected to do well, because it’s inevitable that someone is going to step up their game each year, leaving a usual competitor on the sidelines.

In 2009, there were several drivers who failed to live up to their potential, and are hoping for major improvements in 2010.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The stat line isn’t pretty here, and there’s no sugarcoating how badly this season went for the sport’s biggest star. 25th in points, 2 top-5s and 5 top-10s. He is racing on the best team in NASCAR and his three teammates finished 1,2,3 in the points. There is no conceivable reason that Jr. should have such a bad season, and I hope for both his sake and NASCAR’s sake that he snaps out of it and he doesn’t have a repeat performance in 2010. Dale Jr. winning and competing for wins is good for the sport, but he hasn’t done much of it in the past few years.

Whether it was getting caught in wrecks, his car being ill-prepared, or the driver making the mistakes on the track, the #88 team did not come close to meeting expectations this year. They’ve already switched the crew chief, so now it’s all on the driver. No buts about it, Dale Jr. is going to have to perform in 2010, as he has no excuse left for doing poorly.

David Ragan
I had high hopes for David Ragan this year, after he made a strong run last year and almost made the Chase. This year, he was just plain dreadful, finishing 27th in points with 0 top-5s and just 2 top-10s. This was the biggest one-season dropoff I’ve seen in a long time, as a young driver on his way up in the sport seems to have taken a step back. I am at a loss when trying to explain this massive slip. Clearly, Ragan has some talent, which he showed last year, but something just isn’t right at the #6 team. You almost forgot Ragan was on the track most weeks, he was running so badly. Jack Roush had better hope this team improves in 2010, because Roush needs a solid young rising star like Ragan on his team and doing well.

Kevin Harvick/RCR
All 3 or Richard Childress Racing’s drivers made the Chase in 2008. In 2009, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears AND Jeff Burton all missed. Some of the teams, particularly Burton, looked better at year’s end, but it didn’t matter by that point. With a great history full of championships, this team should be doing better than it is. It’s clear the 4th car was too much to handle, and the team wasn’t anywhere near competing with the Hendrick standard. The team members’ points finishes (15th, 17th, 19th and 21st) show that. Childress needs to make whatever adjustments are necessary this offseason to get back on track.

Roush Fenway Racing
David Ragan wasn’t alone in his struggles at Roush. Matt Kenseth won the first two races, then fell off the map. Greg Biffle didn’t win all year, and neither did Edwards, who won 9 times in 2008. While Rick Hendrick’s team took a step forward in 2009, Jack Roush’s team took a big step back. The Roushketeers need to figure out what is ailing their teams (the drivers are pretty solid, so maybe some crew/garage staff shuffling might help), and get their cars up to snuff so they can get going in the right direction in 2010.


Anonymous yankeegranny said...

I beg to differ with your comment that it is now on the driver as far as Jr is concerned. When you send a driver out with a car that has a known oil leak and expect him to do well, there is something very wrong that has nothing to do with the driver. Since McGrew took over, there has been very little improvement in the quality of the cars that Jr jas been given to drive. If you are not given a top-notch car in the NASCAR of today, you are not going to run up front and contend for the win. Mr H. had better step up and give Jr some quality cars if he is so concerned with the 88 doing well in 2010. Maybe the first step would to hire Ray Evernham as the 88 crew chief if he can get his ties with RPM straightened out.

November 30, 2009 at 6:40 AM 
Blogger OSBORNK said...

To me, Jr. was not a disappointment. His performance is about what I expected. He is not focused on racing. He has so much other stuff going on and he makes millions whether he wins on not. He has no reason to get himself in shape and work hard other than pride and I really don't think he cares that much.

November 30, 2009 at 9:52 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last spring Nascar Now started reported that Tony Jr. was making Jr.'s car with 2007 DEI spec cars. When he was removed, RH said that he was going to fix Jr.'s cars. During the week the crew chiefs were switched, Nascar Now reported that since Jr.'s cars sent to Dover were the old T. Jr. cars and that HMS sent a truck with 2 of the newer HMS chassis to switch out. Those cars never made it to Dover. Instead they made a big deal out of the 'brains' at HMS were working on Jr.'s car...the OLD chassis cars. Lance made 2, 1 1/2 track cars. The first was used at Indy. Jr. ran very well, until the engine blew. They get to Charlotte, instead of using one of the new cars that he ran much better in, they used the car he finished 27th in at Pocono in June, and 36th at Charlotte in the falll of 2008. Where were his 2 newer cars? Was Brad driving one? Martinsville the camber was wrong and it was a lot of blown tires. They ran Jr. out of gas at Texas. At Phoenix, another old T.Jr. car, they knew he had an oil leak, loose oil fittingsand sent him back out on the wreck? Jr. said that he needs a dictator for a cc, I think that he needs a cc that he can have confidence, especially going into a corner at 200mph. With all of the money Jr. is bringing into HMS one would think that they would hire a top tier crew chief, like Addington, or Fennig.
Jr. cannot bring JRM to Cup level because RH owns half of it…and I don’t see RH selling his half back to help out Jr. Why did RH want half of JRM. He ran Tony Stewart in a Nationwide race this year that RH had made at HMS, & Tony won. RH has Jr. hamstrung between a 5 year contract and half of JRM. That is a story I would like to see you write.
Personally, I think that Jr. is not going to run competitively and consistently as long as he is at HMS, for whatever reason. 2 years have certainly been a more than fair trial and HMS isn't up to it, nor do I think that they care to be. I think they have him running their R&D car for Jimmie.
RH has certainly let enough other drivers go and it is time for him to let Jr. go. Maybe Jr. needs to study what KB did and imitate it. :) KB's wins did not take off until he went to Gibbs. Getting out of HMS was the best thing that ever happened to him. He could be driving the HMS R&D car for Jimmie.
We have to get Jr. out of HMS...NOW! Marybeth

November 30, 2009 at 3:25 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" said it all right they. When Earnhardt Jr. went to HMS, I knew right away something like this would happen. And now it has. Jr was doing way better at DEI, even in 2007. Yea he had 12 engine failuars, but if those engines never blew, he'd have WAY better finishes than he would have been having.

November 30, 2009 at 6:42 PM 
Anonymous Trey said...

How long will you Dale Jr fans make excuses for him? When will you finally admit the truth, what Kyle Busch had the backbone to say ... "If it's not the equipment, the crew chief, the only thing left is the driver."

Dale Jr. is out of excuses. If it wasn't for his last name, he'd simply be a Nationwide series driver.

Sorry, but someone must speak the truth.

December 1, 2009 at 10:11 AM 

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