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Monday, April 18, 2011

Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushes Johnson to the win at Talladega, gets a souvenir

Dale Earnhardt Jr. may not have won the race at Talladega, but he has a lot of reasons to smile this year … and Sunday was a continuation of his much-improved 2011.

For the first time in his Hendrick Motorsports tenure, he is running up front on a regular basis. And at Talladega, he pushed teammate Jimmie Johnson to the very narrow win, got a top-5 finish and moved up to 3rd in points – just 19 points behind leader Carl Edwards and 14 points behind Johnson, who sits in 2nd.

Jimmie was very appreciative after the race, and immediately gave Earnhardt the checkered flag.
“Just came to mind,” Johnson said. “I handed it to him and he said, ‘Man, I don't want that’. I said, ‘Well, I have to give you something for the push and working with me.’ He said, ‘No, that's what teammates do.’ ”

This is the kind of attitude that will lead to Earnhardt eventually breaking his winless streak, which now stands at 100. We in the media will constantly remind the fans how long it’s been since Jr. took a checkered flag, but he is wise not to obsess about that. He has seen this year that the Hendrick equipment he is driving is capable of winning, and if he keeps running up front, he will eventually win and he should make the Chase.

So as he heads into the off-week sitting higher in the points than he’s been in what seems like forever, Jr. should not be hanging his head, despite his winless streak. As the saying goes, you can’t change the past but you can change the future … and his results this year show that future has the potential to be very bright.

Joe Nemechek and Dave Blaney … what could have been
It turned out that Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson won the races this weekend, but it could’ve been a whole lot more interesting. Saturday in the Nationwide race, Joe Nemechek had a great race and contended until the end and finished 3rd. Then on Sunday Dave Blaney … who has had to start-and-park regularly in recent years … was leading with just laps to go.

He ended up falling back and not capitalizing on his great run, but it just goes to show that just because a driver ends up a backmarker team and might start-and-park some, that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten how to contend for wins – especially at an equal-opportunity track like Talladega. Blaney and Nemechek may not be where they used to be in their careers, but both are still quality racers who did a great job this weekend.

"It was a really good day,” Blaney said after the race. “Our car was just so fast being pushed. It was amazing. Just didn't get it in the right spot at the right time. I guess now it is just a morale booster. It could have been good, a really nice accomplishment for a little team. But, we'll take all the good we can out of it and go."

The sordid tale of Brian France
In a divorce tale that continues to grow ever more sordid, NASCAR chairman Brian France has sued ex-wife Megan France, claiming she tried to extort him for “substantial sums of money”. He accuses her of tape recording telephone conversations between the two, then threatening to release them if the money is not paid.

While it’s none of my business what went on between these two in their marriage, one question pops into my mind … what could be so bad on these tapes that she could even use them against France? In my opinion, France is only making himself look guilty of something by bringing this lawsuit – as it brings this issue into the public and begs the question … what did he say on the phone calls that has him so worried?

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