Friday, June 15, 2007

My how things can change so quickly...

I said to our board engineer Dalton Galloway on Sunday after the Pocono 500 was officially called because of darkness how much I couldn't stand to watch Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports be happy and win races. Gordon's 79th and latest win came in much the same fashion that happened in the late 90's when he and the 24 team went to victory lane a total of 33 times between 1996 and 1998.

I went to bed Sunday night with the same feeling and how much I was gonna rail NASCAR on the Locker Room on Monday night for even attempting to start the race at 5:00 est when I knew it would take 4 hours to run the full event. The sun officially set at 8:33 in Pocono on Sunday night--- you do the math.

Monday night on the show I said those exact things. I also said that I hadn't heard any news about where Dale Earnhardt Jr. would drive next season and beyond, other than the fact that any possible negotiations were put on hold this past week due to the passing of Bill France Jr.

I went to Columbia on Tuesday to see my girlfriend and some college buddies for a few days thinking that Junior would announce sometime around Daytona in July, or maybe Indianapolis later in the summer. And then I heard it...

"Dale Earnhardt Jr. will hold a press conference at 11 am tomorrow to announce that he is going to drive for Hendrick Motorsports next season."

I nearly wrecked my Monte Carlo. After lunch, I spent the afternoon on various websites trying to confirm the news. I knew that apparently there was "no room at the inn" for Junior just three weeks ago, and now he was going to drive for Hendrick?

After several hours I finally discovered that Kyle Busch would be leaving and Junior would take over in what is the current 5 car next year. Busch was reported to be talking to several other teams when he and Hendrick couldn't work out a deal. Come to find out on Thursday that Busch knew nothing about him not driving the 5 next season until Monday afternoon, which I find to be a complete and total lie just to make him look better and Hendrick look bad. (But my real opinion of both Busch brothers can't be said in mixed company.)

At first I couldn't believe Junior would race for the enemy. I've spent the last 13 years hating Jeff Gordon and everything Hendrick stands for. I said I was done. I wouldn't follow him over there and I would find another driver to pull for on Sunday's.

And then I got to thinking... Why? Just because Junior drives for Hendrick doesn't mean I have to go out and buy a Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson hat. That doesn't mean I have to be happy when Gordon or Johnson win. I'm an Earnhardt fan. I realized that I can pull for Junior even if he drives for Hendrick.

After seeing how big the smile was on Junior's face during the press conference on Wednesday, I know how happy he is to be where he is. I predict next season that he will run competitively every week in superior equipment than what he's had his entire Nextel Cup career and do so without having to worry about what his evil step-mother will say about it.

So Junior, I will follow you to your new team. Atleast, I'm pretty sure I will. I still have until February to decide.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Guess What... DEI is still here.

Martin Truex Jr. went to victory lane on Monday in the rain delayed Autism Speaks 400 at Dover, his first career Nextel Cup Series victory, and first win for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in over a year.

This victory, although shadowed by the death of former NASCAR President Bill France Jr., might be the most important win for DEI as a company.

That’s saying a lot because you have to remember that DEI has won 3 Daytona 500’s. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced last month he was leaving the company that his father started, people immediately began the talk that it would be the demise of a race team that was once considered a giant in the sport.

Truex said he was staying at DEI. I think several things have happened since Earnhardt Jr. said was leaving.

First, Truex is getting the best equipment. Obviously on Monday, Truex was dominant. The car that he was driving is different from the car he drove last year at Dover, because this was a Car of Tomorrow race. DEI has been behind the 8-ball (no pun intended) with the COT this year; everybody has. But the 1 car was better than the 8 car. I think in the coming months as Truex makes his run towards earning a berth in the Chase for the Cup (NASCAR’s playoff system) that he will not only out-perform Dale Earnhardt Jr., but he will do so at a startling pace.

Second, Truex has officially come out of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s shadow. A lot of people became Truex fans because they were Earnhardt fans. I’ll admit I was one of them. Truex blasted his way to 2 Busch Series championships in 2004 and 2005, and in doing so made a lot of fans because of who he was driving for. When he made his way into the Nextel Cup Series last season, he didn’t perform well. Now he has a win, is higher up in the points than Earnhardt Jr. is, and he’s going to make the Chase for the Cup. Dale Jr. will not.

Finally, and I’ll go back to my bold statement at the beginning of this rant, this is the most important win in the history of Dale Earnhardt Inc. Forget 4 Busch Series titles. Forget 3 wins in the Great American Race. Forget everything else that has happened. Truex has proven the critics wrong. I predict he will stay at DEI for a long time. I think he will have great success there. And I think no matter who replaces Dale Jr. next year, that Truex will be the face of the company. Many people think Greg Biffle will move to DEI next season. I don’t think Biffle can take over for Earnhardt Jr., so you have to go back to who was there already: Truex.

Guess what America: Dale Earnhardt Inc. can survive without Dale Earnhardt Jr. Surprise.