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.