Blogs > Nascar: Beyond the Track

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alliance with Martin will only help Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Rick Hendrick doesn’t like to lose. And if he is losing, he usually corrects the problem very quickly.

Over the past few years, he’s done quite well in all levels of racing, with the exception of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #88 team. Heading into 2010, Hendrick has a plan to make sure Jr. does not repeat the horrendous year he had in 2009 and returns to competing for wins and making the Chase.

This plan is very simple: Dale Jr’s #88 and Mark Martin’s #5 team will work together, in every sense of the word (“two cars, one team,” as Hendrick puts it). They won’t just share notes once in a while, as that won’t cut it. They must work together whenever possible so the success that Martin achieved in 2009 can rub off on the struggling #88 team. Hendrick has even indicated that if he decides in the future to swap the crew chiefs of the #5 and #88 (Alan Gustafson and Lance McGrew), he wants the switch to be seamless.

While I’m not the biggest Rick Hendrick fan on a personal level (how quickly most forget his felonious past), his ability to run a race team is second to none, and once again he will likely hit a home run with this strategy to make the #88 team better.

In 2009, Dale Jr. seemed lost. He was in crew chief limbo for much of the year, and some weekends just seemed like he was riding around with no guidance. He would run strong early in the race some weeks, only to fall apart in every way possible.

Now, there will be not only stability, but also direct input from another team (which almost won the championship last year). Plus, Mark Martin is about as good a role model as Dale Jr. could ask for if he’s looking for someone to emulate. This is true on many levels, from Mark’s dedication to staying fit (something Jr. has said he is working on more this year) to his genuinely smart decision-making on the race track.

Bottom line: If Jr. can follow Mark’s lead, both personally and in the car, he will be on the path back to contention. The pressure is on, because if this doesn’t work, the doubters may be right when they say he doesn’t have what it takes to be an elite Cup driver who competes for championships.

Rick Hendrick doesn’t agree with that opinion, and is hoping this alliance with Martin will help Jr. improve and silence the doubters.

By the end of this season, we’ll know which side of the argument has it right.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

why would hendrick take gustafson away from mark. the only reason y mark signed on for another 2 years is b.c. alan would be his crew chief. bad idea rick

February 10, 2010 at 10:28 AM 

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