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Friday, November 26, 2010

Finally, Nationwide points rules may change; Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s woes a key factor in Hendrick crew swap

I complain about a lot of things in this blog … it’s part of the job. But usually it falls on deaf ears.

Finally, it appears something that I (and a ton of other people) have long complained about is actually going to change … the Nationwide series points system.
What I have said for years is that it doesn’t make sense for established Cup drivers like Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to go down to the lower series and win a title. It simply defies logic, but it’s happened every year since 2006. Since then, the champs have been Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski – all full-time Cup drivers when they won the title. Martin Truex won the title in 2005, prior to moving up to Cup.

Rumor now, according to Rusty Wallace and other team owners in the series, is that Cup guys will be allowed to run as many races as they want, but will get no points in the championship standings … which I believe is the perfect compromise in this situation.

The young guys like Trevor Bayne and Justin Allgaier and other upcoming stars can battle for the title, while the Cup guys get into the Nationwide races solely to try and rack up wins and make some more money. The title won’t even be in their thoughts, as the rumored plan is each driver choosing one series in which he will be able to earn points … and I’m guessing all the Cup guys will choose the bigger series.

The racetracks still win, as the Cup guys will be in the races and can be promoted to help sell tickets. The young, up-and-coming drivers win biggest of all, as they have a legitimate chance at a title finally. The fans win because the Cup guys will be even more entertaining in their driving since they won’t be thinking about points. And I don’t even see the Cup drivers as losers in this, because they were not banned from competing in the lower series and still get to have fun on Saturdays.

When this is officially announced, my interest in the Nationwide Series, which has dropped to near zero, will officially be revitalized and I will look forward to a great battle for the title between drivers that are not already in Cup – the way it used to be and the way it is supposed to be in a developmental series.

I’m glad NASCAR is finally realizing this, it’s just too bad it took so long to happen. Regardless, it’s a win-win-win-win situation for everyone, and between the new cars and the new points system it should be a hell of a year for the Nationwide series in 2011.

It's not all about Jr., but it's a lot about Jr.

It would appear Rick Hendrick is a perfectionist, as he’s not sitting around fat and happy after winning his fifth straight title with Jimmie Johnson.

While his team is on top of the NASCAR world, they are making major changes to help his other three teams get closer to Johnson’s level of success. Crew chief Lance McGrew will move from the #88 car to Mark Martin and the #5. Alan Gustafson will leave the #5 and go to Jeff Gordon’s #24 car, and Steve Letarte will go over to Dale Jr. and the #88. This little game of musical crew chiefs may seem unnecessary to some people, but in reality Hendrick is very smart for switching things up.
The truth is that while Jimmie is delivering for him, the other guys aren’t doing so hot.

Jeff Gordon had a pretty rough year, going winless and stinking it up in the Chase. Dale Jr.’s struggles are widely known, and he’s on his way to becoming a footnote in NASCAR history (the guy who used to win before he came to Hendrick). And
Mark Martin’s magic was gone in 2010 as he missed the Chase.

Hendrick said he did not make this decision just to improve Dale Jr.’s performance, and I believe him. But that has to be a key motivating factor. I’ve never seen a driver go to a team this good and do this bad, especially one who did a lot of winning before he arrived at Hendrick.

While some people might argue otherwise, I believe Dale can still drive a race car pretty well, so they need to get him connected to a crew chief that can communicate well with him and improve a car during the race. If he can’t get that kind of relationship going, he’ll never win again no matter how good a team Hendrick is overall.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You probably believe Jeff is a better driver than Dale Jr. If this change is primarily for Jr's sake, why did they give him the crew chief who didn't do much with Jeff? It appears this change was primarily for Jeff's sake (distance between the #24/#48) with the addition of Alan G as CC. The 3rd best crew chief won't do much for Jr. Gordon will reap the benefits and Jr will be expected to do wonders with Jeff's hand-me-down. I truly hope Steve and Jr click, but this change is not Mr H doing everything he can for Jr.

November 26, 2010 at 10:21 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt, I have said before & I say it again. Jr. will not be competitive again as long as he is at HMS.
I believe that Rick tried to throw us off the scent by saying that this is not solely about making Jr. better. None of it is about making Jr. better, it is all about making Jeff better. If it were about Jr., he would now have Gustafson as a cc. He doesn't. I believe that JG could no longer stand being in the same garage as JJ & his 5. He is out. I believe that it is about making Jeff better & heaping more grief, pressure on Jr. Even Terry Blount is saying that JG is the winner in this shake-up, not Jr.

November 26, 2010 at 4:16 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regard to JG's cc next year, I had thought that since HMS been telling us for the past 2 years that the problem with the 88 team was that Jr. did not know how to give good feedback to Lance even though he seemed to give excellent feedback to Darien Grubb in 2008, if being 2nd in points is an indicator, in the COT.
To prove to us that the problem was Jr. who got it wrong, it would have been smart of them to pair Lance & JG to prove that Jr. is the problem...? Instead they gave JG to Gustafson...? :) Marybeth

November 30, 2010 at 4:47 PM 

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