Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Changes coming in the Nascar Nationwide Series?

First it was Winston becoming Nextel, and next year Sprint. Next year it will be Busch becoming Nationwide. ESPN's Terry Blount is reporting that there might be other changes too, such as limiting Nextel, or, excuse me , next year Sprint regulars from earning points in the Nationwide series. I think most of us agree that something needs to change in Nascar's second series. Too many young drivers are being locked out of the field by drivers from the elite series that also choose to dabble in the other series.

Says Terry Blount:

"All we've done at this point is ask the teams how they would feel about various changes," said NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston. 'Nothing has been decided. It's all very preliminary.' The most interesting idea being discussed is a new rule that would state any driver ranked in the top 35 in Cup points could not earn points competing in the Nationwide race. The plan would go into affect in 2009."

For the rest of Terry Blount's article, click here

I think Nascar is on the right track for once. Cup driver have helped the Busch series in the past by helping sell more tickets. Cup drivers will be important to the Nationwide series as well, but really, the Nationwide series should be a place for young drivers to make a splash in Nascar, to attract owners and sponsors, and not just be a play date for the Cup folks. Like I said, I think Nascar is going in the right direction with this idea, but I think they might end up having to eventually limit the number of Cup drivers that participate in the Nationwide series in order to allow more small teams to compete.

I'm glad that Nascar is at least thinking about making some changes for the soon to be former Busch series, and normally I really detest Nascar tinkering with the rules, especially since the ascension of Brian France to the corner office at Nascar HQ. I feel that in this case, at least, that making some changes are warranted.

The changes that Nascar is reportedly considering make more sense than any other theory I've heard thus far. I've thought a lot about it, and I can't come up with a better plan at the moment.

What about you? Let me know what you would do!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Moving On.

Dale Jr. at Atlanta testing with Tony Jr. and Mr. H.!

Thanks for bearing with me on Sunday. I had a rough day, but I did watch the race. I have to ask the question that a lot of people are asking: What does Dale Jr. need to do to catch a break? Watching that wreck was painful, folks, and I've seen at least one photo where that wreck looked sickeningly like the wreck that took Big E's life back in 2001. The wheel fell off? THE WHEEL FELL OFF? Those of you who enjoy comedian Ron White's humor will understand what I'm saying here. Is this just another example of the DEI gremlins at work? We were worried about the engines, and so was Dale Jr. most likely, and he complained more than once about having a loose wheel during the race, and they tried to fix it, but the wheel still fell off? What is going on here?

I'm not a very superstitious person, by nature, but I'm starting to think that DEI just has some sort of curse hanging over it's head this year. If it's not an engine, it's a tire. If it's not a tire, it's a wheel just falling off the car. I mean what gives? I'm thinking that if DEI had given Dale Jr. the engines he needed this year, and the right chassis setups, he would be leading this chase for the Cup, and Jeff and Jimmie would be about 100 points behind! Good grief! Enough is enough! Dale Jr. still has about 3 more opportunities to win a race this year, but I don't want to see him get hurt doing it driving what apparently is inferior equipment. Save something for next year, Dale Jr.!

As has become the theme of the chase for the Cup this year, Jimmie Johnson won the race at Atlanta, and it's just more proof to me that the Hendrick guys are light years ahead of practically everyone else out there. It just builds my confidence that the 88 will have a much improved year over what the 8 has done this year.

Jimmie Johnson just might steal the cup this year from his buddy and mentor and friend Jeff Gordon. He really tightened the gap with his win at Atlanta, and I have to think that Jeff is sweating bullets right now. He really wants championship number 5, but his own protoge is going to make a major run in the next 3 races to spoil that dream of the Drive for Five. I think in the next few races, we're going to see a lot of shoving and pushing, beating and banging between the 24 and the 48. I can't wait! I love to see good hard racing, and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are two of the best in the business at getting the job done. The rest of the season should be exciting, even if there are really only two drivers left in play now.

Thanks for the kind thoughts, especially you Pit Boarders. You really helped me through a tough day Sunday.

God Bless!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

This one's for you, Old Buddy.

Ollie in April, 2007

I apologize to all you loyal Nascar readers, but I want to make a tribute to one of my best buddies over the last 13 years. I'll be back later with more thoughts on racing.


In 1994, I was living in an empty house, after my wife and step daughter moved out, when you came into my life. I could easily hold you in the palm of one hand, and you made me happy from the very first day you came into my life. In your early years, we were both trying to figure out what our lives were all about, but I knew I could always count on you, and you were the one constant in my life back in those days.

When I got home every day, I always knew that you would be happy to see me, and that you would brighten my day, no matter what. You never failed me in that, ever.

You went through 2 moves with me, and always made whatever house we were living in home. I'll never forget all the games we played, how high you used to leap, how I could always expect to find you up on top of the kitchen cabinets, or some other place it seemed impossible for a little cat to get to. You were such an athlete most of your life.

I'll never forget how you would chase and nip at your "Aunt" Ellen when she came over to take care of you when I was out of town. You never met a person, or rarely even another animal that you didn't like. I remember how you were always happy to go to the vet, and how happy you were to greet your friends there, and how happy they always were to see you. You never met a stranger in your life, I don't think.

I remember when I brought home your two "nephews", and wondering how you, an adult male cat, would react to two male kittens. I remember how I shut you up in the other room the first night, and how you practically broke down the door trying to get out and see them. I was so anxious, but it was all for nothing, for when I did let you get to meet them, you almost instantly became their "mama". I think until the very end, they always respected you as the "adult" cat in the house, even now that they have been adults for years, and have dwarfed you in physical size and strength. They never lost their respect for their Uncle Ollie.

I remember when you first got sick, nearly a year ago now. I slept by your side every night, and helped you eat and use the cat pan even. I remember how you began to improve, and you were doing so well until this morning, when your poor body finally failed you. Your spirit never dwindled, but your poor old body finally did.

I know we never knew your true birthday, but we always celebrated it on May the 8th. I doubt that I will ever not think about you on May the 8th, and unfortunately October 28th as long as I live.

Right up until the end, you always seemed to consider you and me equals in the household, and you always let me know when I had displeased you. I remember how as lately as yesterday I kept asking you to be quiet when I was trying to concentrate. You yelled at me whenever you wanted something, or whenever you thought I needed to be doing something else, like holding you. I'm glad I got to hold you one last time yesterday. If I'd only known that it would be the last time, I'd have held you all night long.

We're going to miss you, buddy. I'll always remember you, and it's going to be so tough only putting out two food bowls for a while instead of three. I've got real tears in my eyes, the first in a long time. You were right there with me the last time I had them too, and I don't have you to help me get through it this time. I'll go on, we all will, but Charlie, Spenser and I will miss you.

God Speed, old buddy. My greatest wish right now is that when my time on this earth is up, we'll all be together again in the Great Beyond.

I'll be seeing you, buddy. Rest well.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Random Thoughts going into Atlanta

I always look forward to any race at Atlanta, since it is one of my favorite tracks. I've been there a few times, and it's a great place to watch a race. This week I'm looking forward to the race as usual, but with some trepidation. As a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, I'm seriously hoping we don't see engine failure #8 this weekend. Atlanta is notoriously tough on engines because of the high speeds, and if DEI's engine's can't survive Martinsville, I don't have a lot of faith that they will survive Atlanta.

Has the Chase for the Cup become boring this year? I'm wondering what Brian France and Mike Helton are thinking about the apparent domination of the Hendrick owned cars driven by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson this year. Will there be more tweaks to the Chase and to the cars themselves next year? I'm betting there will be.

What's going on at Haas Racing this year? Seems like a complete flip flop all the way around, drivers leaving, new drivers showing up, and I'm wondering about some of the other personnel there as well. Will one of my favorite crew chiefs, Robert "Bootie" Barker keep his job? If not, I'd love to see him at a more successful shop next year. When I watch Bootie on the Speed channel with Chad Knaus, I just can't help but notice the difference between the two crew chiefs. Chad Knaus is just so totally business, and he's obviously one of the best crew chiefs in the business, but Bootie is so easy to like, and he actually exhibits a sense of humor. Nascar is entertainment, and I like entertaining people, whether it be the driver or the crew chief. Chad Knaus just leaves me feeling like I've just watched the Rain Man or something.

Rick Hendrick Racing cars have won nearly 50% or the races in 2007. If you are already a Hendrick fan, you have to be loving the domination. If you're a future Hendrick fan, waiting in the wings, as are a lot of us Dale Jr. fans, you're probably just hoping that the dominance carries over to next year. Which begs the question: Will Dale Jr. win a championship next year? I don't want to wish that kind of pressure on him right now. I think he'll win races, and contend for the championship, but I'd rather see him get used to the equipment and the people there, and just relax and have some fun, than see him feel like he's either a champion or a failure in his first year with a totally new team. Dale Jr. seems to be a driver that truly worries about how his fans feel, and I just don't want him to feel like he's got to win 5 championships in the next 5 years just to please his fans, and to meet their expectations. I'm confident that at least one championship will come, but I don't want him to feel like it's got to be right away. I think Dale Jr. will have a long and happy association with Hendrick Racing, and eventually he's going to achieve his and his fans' goals.

Will the Drive for Five finally happen this year for Jeff Gordon? To me, it certainly looks that way, and unless something catastrophic happens in the last few races, I think Jeff has it locked up. Jeff's marriage to Ingrid and becoming a father seems to have really given him a boost this year. He says he's even more dedicated to winning than ever, and that's saying a lot for a guy that's already won over 80 races and 4 championships! Is Jeff Gordon the Richard Petty of the current Nascar? Without a doubt. Jeff's ability to adapt to the COT and his team's ability to get him to the front is truly amazing.

I hope we have a safe race this weekend, and that everyone walks away. I'm not just talking about the drivers, but the crews and the fans as well. Yes you! If you go to this race or any race, be careful, don't drink and drive, and get home safely.

Happy Hotlanta, Everyone!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Martinsville remains exciting, even with the COT.

Sorry if this is disjointed, I'm mostly going to ramble here! Just be forewarned!

This was probably one of the most exciting races I've seen in the past few weeks. Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson and the entire 48 team for another win at a track that has very special meaning to all the Hendrick folks. Jimmie held off a late charge by Ryan Newman and his teammate Jeff Gordon to win a caution filled race. My man Dale Jr. was 4th with a few laps to go, but the late cautions kept him from gaining on the guys in front of him, and then the engine finally went away, relegating him to a very disappointing 23rd place finish. The guys on the 8 team really hustled today though, and gained him positions in the pits several times. Tony Gibson and the team, and certainly Dale Jr. can't help the engine failures, especially at the track. Yet another in the apparently unending saga of engine gremlins that has hurt the Bud crew so many times this year.

Was it just me, or did Martin Truex Jr. seem to be involved in at least half of the cautions today? If so, I can't blame him, his shot at the championship is diminishing week by week, and he's driving more aggressively than I've ever seen him. Dale Jr.'s engine problems yet again this week have to have him worried about not only the rest of this year, but next year as well. As a matter of fact, all the Childress drivers have to be worried as well. Fortunately for all of them, there was apparently only 1 engine failure this week out of the combined DEI and Childress shops.

During the races, I read several message boards, just to see what people are saying about the race more or less in real time. Emotion is a huge part of the sport of Nascar, and heat of the moment posts are very telling during the race. On one board, which will remain nameless, most of the posters were more concerned about Dale Jr.'s rough driving, than they were with the progress of their own driver for much of the race. Obviously, this was not a Dale Jr. message board, but I saw posts calling for Jr. to be immediately parked by Nascar, to be suspended for the rest of the season, etc. I know some of these posters are relatively new to Nascar, but for goodness' sake, learn a little about the sport before you start posting garbage like that! This is MARTINSVILLE, for Christ's sake! Bumping and banging have been going on at this track for 60 YEARS now! Dale Jr. was on the receiving end of the taps and bumps at least as much as he was on the giving end. I didn't see much posted about Tony Stewart, but he basically used brute force to get through the field. I don't have a problem with it. It's short track racing, folks, and as Carl Edwards said earlier on MRN, that's why they wear helmets in this sport. It's a contact sport, much like football, except they're wearing sheet metal instead of shoulder pads.

I truly wish there were more tracks like Martinsville. The racing just doesn't get much better than it did today, at least in my humble opinion. My guy didn't finish too great, but he did finish, and he led laps and was driving away from the field. That was worth seeing, no matter what.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What's Next for DEI?

It was announced on Thursday that Director of Competition Steve Hmiel has parted ways with Dale Earnhardt Inc. This came as somewhat of a shock to many DEI followers, as Hmiel seemed to be one of the employees that stood firmly behind the company's vision (what ever that is). Steve told the media that he had differences with his former employer over the direction that the company was taking, and it was decided by both parties that he should leave.

Yesterday, it was announced that 3 DEI employees had been fired for paying for a banner sign dragged through the sky over Lowes Motor Speedway last week that read "How Much Money Does Bobby Ginn Owe You?" It is well known that well over 100 employees lost their jobs at Ginn Racing when it merged with DEI, from crew members to drivers and crew chiefs as well. Apparently more than a few of them have expressed their displeasure at their severance pay, or lack thereof. DEI has once again tried to put a positive spin on the merger, and apparently are not happy about the former employees expressing their angst.

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he was leaving DEI, immediately speculation began circulating over whether crew chief Tony Eury Jr. would leave with him. As it turns out, Tony Jr. has already left, but not before his father Tony Sr. or Pops, left. Pops was Dale Jr.'s first crew chief in Nascar. Also it is known that at least a few of the 8 team's crew members have already left the team or are leaving at the end of the year.

When will the bleeding stop? Apparently not soon.

DEI was founded by Dale and Teresa Earnhardt, as Dale more than once described, as a racing organization for their kids. Kerry Earnhardt is at DEI, and his son Jeffrey is racing in the Busch East series with DEI sponsorship, but now Dale Jr., Kelley, Tony Jr., Pops, and Steve Hmiel, all family, have left or will be leaving at the end of the season. All of these people are family, in one way or another. The only really significant hire that DEI has made in the management side of the business is Max Siegel, who is now president of Global Operations for DEI. Mark Martin is there through next year on a part time basis, as is Aric Almirola. Regan Smith apparently has a deal as well, but I doubt that any of this will replace Dale Jr., the Eurys, and Steve Hmiel.

My hope is that Steve will find a place at Hendrick Racing next year, in some capacity. He's a proven crew chief, and has been involved in the management of race teams. But my private, selfish hope is that he will become Dale Jr.'s spotter at Hendrick next year, because a lot of us who are Dale Jr. fans miss Steve's familiar "Crank it up, June" on the radio after the start engines command has been given.

Where ever Steve goes, I wish him well. I hope that he will still be working with Dale Jr. in some capacity in the future.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Credit Where Credit is Due

This, folks, appears to be the year of Jeff Gordon. Love him or hate him, you've got to admit that he appears not to be cruising, but literally roaring his way to his 5th Cup championship. With only 5 more races to go in the Chase for the Cup, Jeff looks to be unstoppable.

With his 81 wins, Jeff is now 6th on the all time win list, just 2 behind Cale Yarborough, and 3 behind Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. The way Jeff's been running as of late, he could possibly pass all 3 drivers in total wins in 2007! Even if he doesn't, Jeff's place in history is nearly assured at 3rd in all time wins at least. The 5th championship looks to be inevitable, and though he may never win 7, he will be 3rd all time in that category as well at 5, or even 4 if he somehow fails to win the Cup this year.

I say give credit where credit is due. Jeff Gordon is an extraordinary race car driver. He is by far the most successful driver currently driving today. He will go down in history as one of the all time best. As I say, love him or hate him, you have to admit that he's one of the best.

On a different note, I have to give some kudos to Michael Waltrip, a frequent target of this blog earlier this year. (Yeah, I know. This blog didn't target him, I did!) Michael has lately been qualifying much better, and even won a pole at Talladega! I was very impressed with the turnaround his program has been undergoing. He's got a new business partner, and says he is committed to running 3 cars full time next season, with Dale Jarrett giving up the 55 UPS ride after 7 races to sophomore David Reutimann. It's still unknown who will drive the 00 car for the remainder of 2008, or who the sponsors will be, since it looks like Burger King and Dominoes Pizza will not be returning.

I also have to commend my man Dale Earnhardt Jr., who just celebrated his 33rd birthday on October 10. Dale Jr. has been under the most intense media microscope ever in the history of Nascar this year, and he's been driving some cars that quite frankly are embarrassingly bad. It's not just the engines blowing, but the lack of just pure luck. Junior hasn't given up though, and has fought for every position on the track and every point in the standings. For most of his fans, and me, this year just can't end soon enough. 2008 is going to be exciting for Dale Jr. and his fans next year.

Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to my other man, Bobby Labonte. Despite some bad luck, he's been running very well in the legendary 43 car this year, and I think he's on the verge of getting the first win that Petty has had in ages. I hope he'll be in that car for a long time. He and his crew have done a fantastic job this year.

It's on to Martinsville this week, home of the famous hotdogs, and also some great, close short track racing. Everyone have a great week, and we'll see you on the Pit Board soon!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Street Customs on TLC

I know this is totally un-Nascar related, but I have to gripe a bit. I'm watching a show called Street Customs, based out of LA, I suppose. He's building a custom Shelby Mustang prototype for Carroll Shelby, and delays, as they always do, happen. His crew was about 8 hours late completing the paint job, and the vendors that do the supercharger waited around until about 12:00 AM. for the paint to get done. They bailed. They had been standing around with their thumbs up their butts for about 12 hours. I don't blame them for going back to the hotel.

As a vendor, I would have done exactly the same thing, because though I believe in getting the job done, but I also firmly believe the old adage "A mistake on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part".

The owner of this place is a total jerk, and I'm just glad that I don't work for him. I love this about reality shows, such as American Hotrod, etc. Boyd Coddington has to be one of the worst jerks to work for, yet he has a TV show. This dude on Street Customs is a horrible boss. He doesn't even have the guts to fire employees himself, he's got muscle to do it. What a jerk.

Totally my opinion, but I've worked for idiots like this, and no matter what you do, it's never good enough.

Back to Nascar commentary soon.

Looking forward to 2008

I am really getting a bit tired of the ESPN / ABC broadcasts. I like Andy Petree, and Dr. Jerry Punch, but Rusty wears hard on my ears. If Dale Jarrett drives a reduced schedule next year, I'd much rather see him in the booth. The Busch races he did this year were outstanding, and all in all, I'd rather listen to him than Rusty Wallace. It's not that I don't like Rusty, but I think he was a better driver than broadcaster.

I think one of the things I'm going to enjoy the most at the beginning of 2008 is the return of Fox. I know, I know, some of you can't stand DW and Larry Mac, but I miss them. I think that what I enjoy about Fox the most is the atmosphere of fun that exudes from the broadcasts. All the folks on the Fox broadcasts seem to have fun, and for me, fun from the booth makes for a more enjoyable experience. For me, ESPN / ABC is a little too buttoned up, and there seems to be tension in the booths that does not make fans like me very comfortable sometimes. It's not easy to explain, but to me the ESPN guys make me feel more tense than I feel like I should sometimes.

As far as racing in 2008, the COT makes me nervous. I'm not sure that it's made the racing better, which seems to be Nascar's intention. I think the racing is more boring, with everyone fighting the cars more than the other drivers on the track. Maybe it will just be an adjustment period on the part of the drivers, but with the TV ratings down, Nascar has to be scratching their collective heads wondering what isn't right with this picture. Since the reign of Brian France, Nascar has made a lot of radical changes, not only changing the entire structure of the championship race, but changing the cars themselves. There has to be somewhat of a learning curve on the part of the drivers and the crew, and the better equipped teams will adapt better than those teams that aren't on top of the heap.

Hendrick Racing is a prime example. Not only did Hendrick win the first COT race at Bristol this year with Kyle Busch, They have by far excelled in winning in it since then. Other teams are still scrambling, trying to get a handle on the new car. Rick Hendrick's folks seem to be ahead of all of them. No wonder Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to drive for Rick next year. Kyle Busch, on the other hand, will be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, with a switch of manufacturers to Toyota to boot, so I can understand why Kyle is probably not Dale Jr.'s biggest fan these days.

I am looking forward to one aspect of the remainder of the 2007 season though. I'm wondering if Richard Childress will rue the day he agreed to a combined engine program with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Talladega was just about as bad as it could be, engine wise for both companies this past week. Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Clint Bowyer are all in the Chase, and all had engine problems at Talladega. DEI has somehow gone from the king of plate programs to DNF's in nearly all of them lately. Oh how we all miss Dale Earnhardt. I doubt DEI would be such a mediocre shop if he were still alive.

The biggest early stories in 2008 will of course be the drivers that changed rides in the off season. That's a lot of stories, but none will be bigger than that of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Dale Jr. finally will have the best equipment, and hopefully the best people surrounding him. Dale Jr. will have to step up and win races in 2008 and be a major contender for the championship, if he wants to shut up his detractors once and for all. A lot of people say the boy can't drive, but I say they're full of it. 17 wins, and 2 Busch championships don't just happen by accident.

The boy can drive. Maybe now he can just be the driver and do his job in equipment that is worthy of his skills.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What happened to you, Dega?

First of all, I'm not the kind of fan that's easily bored by any race. I hear people talk about boring, and I think to myself, "Well, they're just not as big a fan of racing as I am." I have to admit though, that I yawned a couple of times during yesterday's race. After watching nearly every DEI and RCR team have engine problems, I just sort of tuned out. Not entirely, but I just lost interest.

I think part of the problem is Nascar's shining example of progress, the Car of Tomorrow. I just can't get my heart into the new car. They're all so identical, that if it weren't for paint schemes and numbers, I couldn't tell a Ford from a Chevrolet from a Dodge from a Toyota. I know that was basically Nascar's goal from the beginning, but from a fan's standpoint, it just creates boredom. At least it did for me yesterday.

Congratulations to Jeff Gordon for driving a smart race and being where he needed to be when it counted. I've never been a Gordon fan, but as a driver, he's as smart as they come. He figured out where he needed to be to finish in the win column, and I certainly can't blame him for that. That's the way its done these days, and I'd do the same thing if I were in his shoes. I guess part of my problem with Nascar is that with all the parity they're striving for, and have achieved, to some extent, they have lost something else: Racing.

When I go to my local track here in Anderson SC, I see something that I'm not seeing much of in the top Nascar series these days. I see guys and gals fighting for every position for every lap for however long the feature lasts. I understand that in a 400, 500, or even 600 mile race, you have to conserve your equipment, and that's just smart. What I'm missing these days is good old fashioned, smash em up, bang em up racing. I doubt if I'm the only fan that feels that way lately. It's not that I want to see drivers wreck, but I do like to see them lean on each other a little. That's why I have always been so bored with open wheel racing, at least the top series out there. The cars can't touch, if they do, they wreck. Put some fenders on my race car, folks! Put some bumpers on the front and the back, and let's use them! My blood gets pumping faster watching a 15 lap feature at my local short track on any Friday night than it does watching 500 miles of just about anything in the Nextel Cup series over the last couple of years. Sure there's exciting moments, but not on practically every lap.

Nascar has, unfortunately, become a big business these days, and has agonized over parity more than I think they need to. Let's help the little guy get into the series, but let's not do it by making all the cars, and for that matter, most of the drivers identical and interchangeable. Let engine builders and crew chiefs use their own genius to manufacture wins. Let the best drivers drive for the best teams, but help the little guy get his foot in the door as well. If I knew how to fix it, I'd be working for Nascar right now, but I don't and I'm not. I don't know what the answers are, but I'm ready for Nascar to be fun again.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

It's Talladega Time Again!

I don't know about you, but my heart starts pumping a little faster on Talladega weekend. As Jeff Burton says, Talladega is probably the easiest track to drive, when you're all alone, but add 42 other drivers, and it's a recipe for disaster.

Dario Franchitti will attempt his first ever Nextel Cup start this weekend, at the track that's famous for the BO, or the "Big One". Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch have all expressed their concern over this fact. I don't blame them at all. Dario is a great driver in his own right, and I think he can drive a stock car just as well as any other rookie. Note that I say stock cars, because in stock cars, Dario Franchitti is a ROOKIE! That doesn't mean he can't drive them. It just means he's not used to them and all their quirks and warts.

Fans of F1, CART, and all other open wheel series often say, with a sneer, that anyone can drive a "taxi". I'd like to hear what people like Sam Hornish and Juan Pablo Montoya think about that. These boys have been driving taxis for a while now, and JPM has won, but I think even he would tell you it's not as easy as it looks. Tony Stewart came up through the ranks in open wheel race cars as well, and even though he's won 2 Cup championships, it was never easy for him.

What attracts these heroes of the open wheel world to Nascar? I think it's 2 things: Money and the Challenge.

Nascar pays very well, and even though most of the drivers in F1, IRL, etc. could retire today and never work again, they all know that Nascar pays better.

The Challenge part of the equation comes from going from the best technology available to a big, clunky car with a big engine, and it weighs a whole lot more than anything they've ever driven on the track. Great driving skills can make a rookie good, but I'm not sure Dega is the best track to start a rookie. One inch either way may mean the difference between the Big One or just a little scrape.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not given up his drive to keep his at least 1 win a season record going. Talladega is a great track for him, and even if he doesn't have a great car, you can look for him to be charging to the front all day. Dale Jr. wants to win one more in the 8 before he goes on to bigger and better things in the 88 next year.

Friday, October 5, 2007

A little housekeeping here.

Let me try to be brief. This is a continuation of my old blog on Yahoo. I like this better.

You can read and respond to my old posts, and you are more than welcome to. All I ask is that you please disregard any pics referred to, because they are GONE for right now! Also please forget about any old yahoo or gmail addresses. If you want to rip me a new one, go back to my home page, and the link is there.

I'm trying to move on to better and bigger things, but some growing pains will happen. At least that's what I call them!

I sincerely want to thank all of you while I work on this site, feel free to peruse the old blog entries, because it took me hours to migrate this past years entries over, and if you don't read them, who will? Right or wrong, I migrated them all over so you could see either how big an idiot I've been or not. Feel free to comment on them, etc.

Another note on the blog entries. No, I didn't write them all today, but since the early part of February 07, I've been writing about this stuff pretty regularly. I know they all say October at this point, but if you read each entry, you will find the original date they were posted in the first line of the text of the post.

Most of all, Please remember that this is an on-going project, and it's going to change some, until I get it all working like I like it.

Thanks for your patience and for your support!


Jimmy C.

California Dreaming

Note: This was originally posted on September 3, 2007.

I just watched probably the most exciting California Speedway race ever. The finish wasn't all that close, but there was a lot of exciting racing in Sunday's Sharp Aquos 500. We saw close racing, we saw wrecks, we saw smoke, and we even saw fire, unfortunately.

The drivers on the bubble for the Chase drove hard, and in the end, not a lot changed. The hyped-to-the max struggle for Dale Earnhardt Jr. was played out as if choreographed by a Hollywood screenwriter. The stands at the often criticized California Speedway appeared to be full. There was drama, and even a little comedy in last night's performance.

We watched as the 55 Toyota of Michael Waltrip blew a tire, burst into flames, and slid into the infield, trailing burning oil and a lot of smoke. We watched breathlessly as the safety crew drove up beside Michael's car, and one safety worker sidled over to the car, as if asking for directions, and basically just stood there as Michael struggled to free himself from the restraining belts and HANS device to exit the car. Remember Michael Waltrip is about 6' 5" or so, a very large man physically, much taller than the average Nascar driver. Michael finally was extracted from the car, but one has to wonder about the apparent lack of concern exhibited by the first responder. The second man to arrive at the car carried a fire extinguisher, and he promptly ran to the passenger side of the car, spraying retardant under the car, rather than inside the cockpit, where the flames were becoming more than a little of a concern to the driver trapped inside. Michael is apparently fine, which is indeed good news. As for the safety workers? I guess this one is just a matter of "Whatever, dude."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 5th, beating all the other drivers he had to beat, but not by enough to really make much of an impact in his quest to get into the Chase. When Dale climbed from the car, his face was as red as his uniform, and he had trouble putting sentences together. He was exhausted, and had just driven in horrible 145 degree plus temperatures for four hours. Dale Jr. didn't just drive the car, he drove the wheels off of it. I know that other drivers drove hard too, but Dale Jr. was driving with everything on the line, and no crew chief or team owner could ask more from a driver than the performance Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave Sunday night. Many people may wonder why Dale Jr. drove so hard for a team that he is leaving at the end of the year. The short answer is that Dale Jr. is his father's son, and just like his father, he didn't quit until the checkered flag flew.

My usual race day tradition is somewhat complex. Not only do I watch the race, but I have's Pitcommand running, and I'm watching lap times. I'm also listening through the headphones to different drivers. At one point during a short green flag run, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch swapped the lead several times, both drivers racing very hard. After the next yellow flag flew, Dale Jr. told his spotter, Steve Hmeil, to tell the spotter for Kyle Busch, "Tell the 5 (Kyle Busch) that was fun!" Steve Hmeil complied.

Also, during another caution, Dale Jr. did an in-race interview. Dale sounded tired, hot, and cranky, giving short, terse answers. The interviewer quickly wrapped it up, wishing Dale Jr. good luck. Dale Jr. replied "I hope you're enjoying your air conditioning." The interviewer informed Dale Jr. that it was 65 degrees up in the booth. Dale Jr. replied "I figured."

In addition to the other things I'm doing during the race; watching, reading, listening, etc. I also check out several message boards. I hardly ever post on any of them during the race, but I do read several. One board dedicated to a fairly popular driver, who drives for one of the legendary owners of Nascar is always particularly interesting. The driver that is supposedly the favorite of these fans was not running very well through much of the race last night. In virtually every race over the last two years that I've read this board, there are fans calling for the firing of the crew chief, even in races in which this driver eventually won. During many of the races, the fans initiate personal attacks on each other, which, I suppose, may be understandable during the heat of competition. Often during these races, the board moderator, who is an employee of the driver, has to get out the "Hoover" and delete entire message threads because of the personal attacks. This happened at least once last night that I know of. I was reading this message board after by far the biggest victory of this driver's career, and there were still fans criticizing everything from the tire pressures to the crew chief. I repeat, this was after the driver WON the race! I understand being a fan, because I am a fan, but sometimes we as fans carry things a little too far.

Like all sports, racing is a business. People involved in it earn their livings from it. We, as fans, invest our dollars into the sport, because we are passionate about it. That's the way pretty much all sports work. As in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, track and field, tennis, golf, or any other sport you can imagine, some of us Nascar fans are passionate about it, and some are more casual. Any level at which you participate is welcome, as long as you are a fan. When a sport becomes your life, and you're not getting paid for it, I think it might be time to back off a little though!

Nascar racing provides many, many people with a living. Sadly, I'm not one of those, no matter how much I would love to be. If I can ever write about it and get paid for it, I'll be happy, but I don't get paid 1 cent for this. I do it because I love it, and I will for as long as I have the time or ability to do it.

I have to say congratulations to Bobby Labonte on his 11th place finish last nigh. Bobby and his new crew chief Doug Randolph are really clicking well together. Bobby and Doug are both tried and true veterans of this sport, and it's really good to see that 43 Petty Dodge running so well again!

Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson, he had the best car when it counted. Congratulations to Dale Earnhardt Jr. for driving probably your toughest race ever. You never gave up, and I think any true Nascar fan will have to respect you a lot for what you did last night.

Nascar Message Boards: A Few Things to Think About

Note: This was originally posted August 31, 2007.

Let me start off by saying this: I love Nascar message boards. I participate on a couple of them, and read a ton of them. It's like the old fashioned telephone party line of racing. Everyone gets a say, and opinions can be expressed. News and rumors can be posted. Pictures and links to articles can be posted. I find it a fantastic source of fan opinion and news as well.

On one of the message boards that I participate in, I find the posters there to be way more on the ball than that news and rumor guru, Jayski. Up until a few years ago, Jay Adamczyk has been my main source for Nascar news and rumors. These days, I go to message boards to find it first. Jay is a one man show, and my hat is off to him, he's done a great job for over 10 years now, but one person can only do so much. Message boards on the other hand, have dozens, maybe hundreds of fans searching the Internet for articles and pictures. As soon as someone finds something they find interesting, they post it.

Message boards offer something that I, and I think Nascar will find even more important than news. What do the fans think? The best way on earth to find out what the fans think is to read the message boards.

There are great message boards and there are horrible message boards though. Some boards basically are just a forum for posters to childishly attack each other and the drivers they don't like. I avoid these. There's not much of use for me to learn from people with the maturity of 4 years old calling each other names. Most of the bad boards simply require a user name to post.

The better message boards require an e-mail to be sent to the board owner or moderator, ln e-mail address that is associated with an IP address such as Charter, Juno, or AOL. Hotmail and Yahoo e-mail addresses are not allowed. This provides the moderator of these boards with solid information, such as the user's IP address in order to ban problem posters and not allow them to reapply under different name after they have been banned. I think this is the only way you can run a successful board and keep quality members. Freedom of speech is great, and if you stay within certain guidelines on these boards, you have that freedom. If you abuse it, the moderator will pull the plug on you, and this is entirely their right. This makes perfect sense to me, because if I'm footing the bill to provide you a forum to sound off, then you adhere to my rules, or you find somewhere else to vent your views. If I were to moderate a board, I will give you freedom of speech, within limits. You have the freedom to make a fool out of yourself but once, and then you'll have to find another place to do it. Lord knows there are plenty of places on the Internet to do that anyway.

A few tips on posting on a message board: You may disagree with popular opinion, especially if you do it tastefully and not in an insulting manner. Adults can have a discussion, even a heated one, as long as it does not resort to name calling or personal attacks. If in doubt about how your next post will be construed, then think about it before you post. Personally, I tend to err on the side of safety. I'd rather keep my opinion to myself rather than set off a firestorm that might get me jacked up more than I already am. Discretion is the key here. If what you are reading makes you mad, go elsewhere for a while. Take a walk, cool off. It's not worth getting yourself into a situation that you will later regret.

The most important advice to give to anyone joining a message board is this: If you join a message board dedicated to a certain driver, Don't join that board and start trashing the driver. I've seen this happen so many times, and I've never understood why anyone would be foolish enough to do this. The next most important tip I can give you is never, get into a war of words with the moderator. That's a quick ticket to have your posting abilities disappear in puff of engine smoke.

Finally, most of the readers of my blog know who I am and where hang out, but in case you don't, let me tell you what in my opinion is the best Nascar message board on the Internet, hands down. Even if you're not a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, virtually anything racing related is discussed here. The board is one of the most active, the people are friendly, and so is the moderator. Anyone can read it, and it's not difficult to join, even for non Earnhardt fans. A word of advice though, and see what I wrote above. You can post about just about anything, but if you're not a fan of Dale Jr., find some other place to bash him.

My favorite message board, bar none, is the Dale Jr. Pit Board

The New Bristol: Love It or Leave It?

Note: This was originally posted on August 29, 2007.

I watched what I thought were 3 pretty good races at Bristol this past week. Apparently a lot of folks disagree with me.

I thought the Truck race was it's usual wild self. I saw beating, banging, and great passes, and just plain great racing. I thought much the same about the Busch race as well.

As for the Cup race? I liked it. 3 Wide racing at Bristol and green flag pit stops are something that many of us have never seen before. I thought the race was anything but boring, I was totally into it the entire race.

I think one reason that many people didn't seem to enjoy the race Saturday as much as in years past, is because of the Car of Tomorrow. On a brand new track configuration, no one really knew what to expect in cars that all the teams are still trying to get used to. I really enjoyed the race. Maybe not the eventual winner, but I thought I saw good racing all night long.

Ever since Saturday night, I've been reading about how boring it was, and then I've read that if you thought it was boring, then all you want to see are wrecks, and blah, blah, blah. I'm not going to question anyone's reason for watching a stock car race. I'm sure we probably all have different reasons.

I love the competitiveness of racing. I like watching drivers rub and bang on each other. I don't really enjoy seeing anyone wreck though. If you're a football fan, you probably hate to see anyone carried off the field on a stretcher, even if that player is on the other team. At least I don't.

I like it when a driver I'm not pulling for, but has lead most of the laps in a race blows an engine. I like it when they have bad luck like cutting a tire. I don't want to see them wreck, but I do like watching them in the pits while my driver is blowing on past out on the track.

The Car of Tomorrow was supposed to be the great equalizer. It was supposed to level the playing field. In some ways, it probably has, but we still have engines blowing, tire problems, and drivers with tempers more comparable to a 5 year old than a major professional sports figure. As much as Nascar tinkers with the equipment and the rules regarding conduct, the real difference between teams is the human one. I'm not just talking about the driver, even thought that is a very important part, but also about the crew chief, the tire changers, the jack man, the catch can man, the engineers back at the shop, even the guy that sweeps the shop floor late at night. It's the one thing that Nascar can't totally control. It's the human spirit.

Sometimes I think that Nascar's ultimate goal, besides making money, would be to have 43 identically prepared cars, remotely controlled by 43 identical computers. Just take the human element out of it. Honestly, I can understand making things fair, but leave a little inventiveness to the crews and drivers, please!

Tracks change. Crew chiefs, tire specialists, chassis engineers, and finally the driver adapt to them. It's in the interpretation of the changes needing to be made is what separates good teams from bad teams. A team with a zillion dollars as a budget will not win races or championships if they don't have the right people in the right places. That literally includes every single body on every single team. The big owners such as Hendrick and Roush seem to have unbeatable resources, but sometimes the little teams do well, and even sometimes win a race or two. Personally, I think Nascar should cut down on the ownership limit of teams even more, if they really want to even the playing field. Cut the maximum number teams per owner down to 2. Increase the field limit to 44 or cut back to 42. Or leave it alone. One guy out there just won't have a potential team mate. That's fine. Let the guy with no team mate duke it out and beat the others. That's fine with me.

Back to Bristol though. The track was rebuilt, literally from the ground up this summer. Variable degree banking, wider racing lanes. These changes weren't made to make the races boring. Bristol is already the toughest ticket to get in the sport. I've read about long time ticket owners wanting to sell their seats now. Hey, I'll pay cost for them. Anywhere inside the track. Bristol remains maybe the only track on the circuit that doesn't have a bad seat in the house. 3 wide racing? I'm all for it. I wish more tracks offered 3 wide racing. Fewer cautions? I'm all for that too. Cautions often mean wrecks, and I'm not for that.

Seriously, if you thought the race was boring, and want to sell your tickets at cost for next year? Let me know! I'm not kidding!
Note: This was originally posted August 20, 2007.

Got nothing for a picture, but I do want to say that the 81 is the logical number for Dale Earnhardt Jr. next year. His maternal grandfather, Robert Gee ran the 81, and the 8 in 1978. His driver, mostly Ferrel Harris, ran both the 81 and the 8. In his first race, Farrel made it all happen, when he finished 8th, driving the 81, at the 1978 Firecracker 400 at Daytona.

Ferrel Harris finished 8th, driving the 81, and someone named Dale Earnhardt finished the same race 7th, driving a car for Will Cronkite. By they way, Dale Earnhardt finished 7th in a Ford.

This was right before the man that was to start Earnhardt's career showed up, Rod Osterlund. In 1979, Earnhardt won rookie of the year, and in 1980, Dale Earnhardt won the Winston Cup for the first time, the only time in Cup history that a rookie has won ROTY and the Cup back to back.

Dale Earnhardt went on to win 6 more championships and a total of 76 races with owner Richard Childress, tying the all time record of championships with Richard Petty.

In 1978, a talented car builder named Robert Gee owned a Winston Cup team. He alternately used the numbers 81 and 8 for his drivers Ferrel Harris and Skip Manning. Gee never won a race as an owner, but he won a lot of races as a builder and fabricator. At one point in his career, he helped get an owner named Rick Hendrick his start in racing.

Robert Gee was also the father of a daughter named Brenda. Brenda caught Dale Earnhardt's eye and they were married, and had two children, Kelley and Dale Jr. At the time, Dale was trying to race for a living and working side jobs including welding and changing tires for a tire shop. Money was scarce, and eventually Brenda Gee Earnhardt moved on with her two children, was divorced from Dale Earnhardt, and got remarried. A few years later, Brenda and her new husband suffered a devastating house fire, and she sent Kelley and Dale Jr. to live with their biological father, who was now a famous Nascar driver. By this time, Dale was remarried for the 3rd and final time to Teresa Houston, the daughter of a race car driver. Dale and Teresa took Dale Jr. and Kelley in, and raised them. Dale wasn't there a lot, because he was traveling to race tracks all the time. Teresa took care of the kids. Dale won races, and became one of the best drivers in Nascar history.

Skip ahead a few years. Dale is gone. Dale Jr. is driving for the company that Dale and Teresa started. After a few years of disappointment, Dale Jr. leaves his father's company to drive for Rick Hendrick Racing, a company his maternal grandfather helped get off the ground. Dale wants to take the number that his father secured for him, the very number that his grandfather had raced with, away from his step-mother so he can keep the same number on the race track.

Teresa resists, and eventually the deal falls through. Dale Jr. eventually thinks about what number would be the best, and thinking about the legacy of his mother's dad, will choose the 81.
It has to be this way. It's destiny.

Dale Jr. needs to make the 81 more famous than the 8 has ever been.

It's destiny.

A little Break in the Action

Note: This was posted on July 26, 2007.

Out of respect for Dale Earnhardt, I would ask all fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to stop ripping on Teresa Houston Earnhardt. I make this plea because I'm not sure all of the current Nascar fans understand just how important Teresa Earnhardt has been to this sport.

Teresa came from a racing family. She grew up around the race tracks almost the same way that her husband did. In a lot of ways, Teresa helped make Dale Earnhardt the man that he was. She helped him make business decisions and was a driving force behind the creation of the company that she now fully controls, Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Many of us would have loved to have seen Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive his entire career for DEI. I did. Many of us wish his father had not passed away on 02/18/2001. But he did.

If the old man were still alive, would Dale Earnhardt Jr. be driving for Rick Hendrick next year? I think probably not. Has Teresa Earnhardt made some mistakes since her husband died? Probably. I can't judge that, and neither can about 99.99% of you.

The only thing I know is that Dale Earnhardt always went to were the best racing was. Like father, like son. Dale Earnhardt Jr. feels that he's got a better chance of winning races and championships with Hendrick. After the last few years of disappointments, I feel that Hendrick is the very best place he can be to achieve his goals.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there are factors to this equation that we will probably never know about. Was it more of an equipment issue or a personal issue for Dale Jr.? We'll probably never know. That's between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Teresa Earnhardt, and I think it should stay that way. If you are a father or a mother, or a son or a daughter, would you want millions of people examining your lives every day? I doubt it. Let's let the family business remain with the family. It's not our business.

I'm not saying leave the lady alone because she's a widow, or you disagree with her business decisions. You can disagree with her all you want to, but to be calling a woman whom you don't know a witch or worse is not very nice. Would you want that said about your mother?

Taylor Nichole is not involved in Nascar, but I imagine that she reads a lot of the stuff here on the Internet. I know that Kerry, Kelley, and Dale Jr. are stepchildren to Teresa, but Taylor is her daughter, and if I were her, I would not want to be reading about how my mom is the witch from hell.

Leave Teresa alone. If you don't like her, then don't support her drivers. Just remember that she was very instrumental creating and running the company that gave Dale Earnhardt Jr. his start in racing.

As always, e-mail me at what ever address this site shows, and I'll be happy to read your e-mail, but on this subject, I will say that I'm not going to give an inch on this one. Hate Teresa or don't hate her, that's your choice, but I imagine all the hatred out there is probably hurting not only Taylor, but probably the rest of the kids as well.

I think the Earnhardt family has suffered enough. Leave them alone or go find another sport.

Rules? What Rules?

Note: This was originally posted on July 7, 2007.

The driver pictured above is not Kyle Petty, but he works for Kyle, and seems to think like Kyle. The driver pictured above is Bobby Labonte, and he drives the 43 Dodge.

Bobby Labonte, as is Kyle Petty, is a professional. Both drivers have been around the sport for a long time, both have wins, and both have seen bad, worse, and worst.

The situation in Nascar today is in some ways unique, but not completely new. Nascar has always been about keeping the racing exciting and close. The racing today is closer than ever. When is the last time you saw a driver win by a lap or more? That used to be common as late as the 1980's. In this way, Nascar has succeeded.

With the new Car Of Tomorrow, or COT, as it is known, Nascar has been handing down some pretty stiff penalties for changing anything on the body of the car. So far, 3 crew chiefs have been sent home for 6 races, and teams have each been penalized 100 owners and drivers points. The $100,000 penalties are nothing, really though.

$100,000 is like pocket change to these guys. 100 points is not.

Drivers simply cannot afford the penalties in points. They work hard for every single point, and when they get penalized 100 points, it's hard to come back from that. The three drivers in question seem to be recovering well, but the fact remains that every point is hard to earn in this sport.

Crew chiefs are not quite as famous in this sport as the drivers are. Perhaps they ought to be. Crew chiefs ultimately have all rule over the finished car that goes onto the track. The crew chief is given the job of making sure that the car is as fast as possible.

The crew chief has many options available. He can tweak the engine or the chassis. Nascar has hard and fast rules concerning the engine. The engine must be exactly 358 cubic inches in displacement. The crew chief can only use certain sized carbs and intakes on their engines. The exhausts are measured for size. The tweaks that the crew chief can use are the internal engine parts, such as pistons, valves, lifters, springs, crankshaft's, camshafts, etc.

On the chassis, crew chiefs can change, somewhat, the geometry of the suspension and the components used. Springs, shocks, etc. can be experimented with. The amount of spring force and angle can be changed. Spring rubbers can be applied. A veritable playground of chassis options exist crew chiefs.

Back in day, there was a crew chief named Smokey Yunick. Smokey had a lot of ways to beat Nascar, back in the day. I'll give you one example of that.

Back in the day, as we say, Smokey was given a certain fuel tank size as a rule of law by Nascar. To give his driver a bit more of an advantage, Smokey made a fuel line from the gas tank to the carb that circled around several times, and was several times longer than it needed to be. The result? That driver had almost a gallon of gas more than his peers on the track.

It's this kind of innovation that has separated Nascar from the other racing series. Nascar crew chiefs are responsible for giving their drivers that extra 1/10 of a second advantage around the track. Crew chiefs in Nascar have always looked for that extra edge to give their driver an advantage. It's just part of Nascar. Did Smokey cheat? Yeah, probably, but Nascar had never made any determination about the length of fuel lines. Up to that point. That's what crew chiefs do: Try to find a little extra advantage.

Now Nascar is trying to take that ability away. To me, I think Nascar should keep the traditions that helped grow the sport from a South Eastern US favorite to the national and even worldwide sport it has become.

Message to Nascar: Don't mess with success.

What makes a Fan a "True Fan"?

Note: This was originally posted June 19, 2007.

I've been taking the relative temperature of the Nascar world again, as usual by reading message board. Some boards are a delight to read. Some are rather idiotic, and some are down right infantile.

Of course, the biggest subject on pretty much any message board this year is the ongoing saga of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Where will he go? Will he get to keep the 8? Will Budweiser stay with him?

At least 1 of those questions has finally been answered, with Dale Jr. announcing last week that he will be driving for Rick Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 and beyond. The questions about his number and sponsorship remain, however.

On virtually message board I've read over the past week, I've seen at least a few fans report that they've "had enough", that they can no longer be fans of Junior if he drives for Hendrick, the latter of whom I've heard referred to as the "criminal", the "felon", and a few descriptive terms that don't bare repeating on this blog.

For those that don't know, Rick Hendrick was placed under house arrest after pleading guilty for mail fraud about 10 years, and paid some huge fines as well. He was also denied any contact during that period with his two main businesses, his racing teams and his car dealerships. At around the same time, Hendrick was also diagnosed with leukemia, and his poor health was the reason for his house arrest, rather than serving prison time. The year was 1997, and Rick basically was not at the track, or at his shops for a year or so. Even without his boss' hands on support, Jeff Gordon won the Winston Cup that year, and at virtually every opportunity supported his boss' fight for his life by giving as many public plugs to the Leukemia Foundation as possible, including sporting a decal on his in car camera panel with the number "1-800-Marrow" as a way for fans to donate to the foundation that was leading in research to safe the lives of patients such as Rick Hendrick.

As far as I know, Rick's leukemia is in full remission, and 10 years later, he appears to be reasonably fit and healthy. Jeff Gordon's unfailing support of his boss in the hard times is what has undoubtedly helped earn the support of Rick Hendrick for Jeff, and basically a lifetime contract between the two. Lifetime contracts are virtually unheard of in Nascar, especially during the last 15 years or so. I firmly believe that if Jeff Gordon wanted to still be driving the 24 Chevy at age 60, Rick Hendrick's shop would prepare the best equipment available for Jeff.

I imagine that virtually every other Nascar driver out there, and drivers of every other series, any athlete on any team anywhere would love to have a relationship with their owner like Gordon has with Hendrick. Both have been unfailingly loyal to each other, and I firmly believe that Jeff would not have achieved nearly as much success as he had without that commitment from his owner.

Could Dale Earnhardt Jr. have driven his entire career for Dale Earnhardt Inc.? Of course he could have. Dale Jr. has won 17 Cup wins, 22 Busch series wins, and 1 All Star race driving for DEI. Dale Jr. has also seen drivers who have driven less races than him win championships already. Matt Kenseth has won a championship, but hasn't won an many races as Junior. The same can be said for Kurt Busch. Junior also has watched his friend Jimmie Johnson come from virtually nowhere, and win an amazing 27 Cup races and a championship in only 5 full years of Cup racing. Johnson was not a 2 time Busch champ as was Junior. Johnson only has 1 Busch win in his entire career.

So why is Jr. leaving DEI? His record isn't that bad, in fact it's pretty good. A lot of drivers who have been driving for a decade or more longer than Dale Jr. would love to have his stats. Junior obviously has had some good equipment over the years. Nobody wins 17 races with poor equipment in a sport as competitive as this.

I don't think the equipment has much to do with it. Jr. knows they can improve that situation, and already have been working toward that goal with the announcement that DEI and Richard Childress Racing will be working together on their engine programs. Richie Gilmore, DEI's engine guru has been working more closely with the existing engine program at DEI, and the results have already paid off. Junior has praised his engines as of late, which is much better than earlier this year and over the last 2 years or so, when he often complained about a lack of horsepower. Tony Eury Jr. and Tony Gibson have been doing a better job this year with the chassis setups. Gone are the days when they threw changes at the car just to see what worked and what wouldn't. Junior has become much more confident in calling for his own detailed changes with Tony Gibson over the last few weeks as well, and more than often, they pay off.

Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Jr. have had what has been described many times as a strained relationship. Apparently this is nothing new, but dates back to the time when Dale Jr. and his sister Kelly came to live with their dad and step-mom when Junior was still a young child. Relationships between step-parents and children are often strained. Heck, relationships between parents and children are often strained as well. Dale Jr.'s relationship with his father was often not a happy one in his teenage years. It was really only when Dale Jr. started driving and winning races that he and his father became truly close.

Dale Earnhart was a racer. He had little time for much else, for most of his life. His doubts about Dale Jr. early in Junior's career have been documented in many places, but when he saw that his son was committed to the job at hand, he became his son's biggest fan. Dale became not only Junior's father, in a real sense, but his mentor, his teacher, and a boss that supported his son, the driver. Dale's own career was reaching its twilight years, and I honestly think that he died a happy man, knowing that his son was going to be successful in this, the sport that he loved with a passion unmatched by almost all others.

Would Dale be happy with Junior's decision to leave the company business? I guess we'll never know for sure, but I do know one thing. If Dale had become unhappy with Richard Childress as his owner, he would have left. Racers race, and the ultimate goal of racing is to win. Whatever keeps you from winning is something to be concerned about. In Junior's case, I think it's mainly the feeling that he doesn't like the direction that the family business has taken over the last few years. He feels like he know longer has an owner who supports him, but will happily trade barbs with him in newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, of all places. I think most of this year, Junior has felt like it's him and Kelly against the world, and with Rick Hendrick, he sees a man his father respected who's willing to take Junior to the next level, which is winning championships.

I personally feel that if Dale Earnhardt were still alive, Dale Jr. would be happily driving for DEI for the rest of his career. Dale Earnhardt is gone though, and though his legacy lives on, nothing will ever bring him back. Dale Jr. is probably a different person in some ways than he would be were his dad still alive. But at heart, Teresa Earnhardt needs to know one thing. Junior can be a celebrity, and will continue to be, but in the end, Dale Jr. chose racing.

As I said above, racers race. Racers always choose racing. Rick Hendrick is giving Junior an opportunity to race and more importantly, to win. I think Dale would support that decision.

So, you folks that are planning to throw your Dale Junior die cast cars in the dumpster? Send 'em to me. I'll even pay for the shipping.

Running the Numbers: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Note: This was originally posted June 17, 2007.

It's finally official, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive for Rick Hendrick Racing for the next 5 years, apparently in the ride to be vacated by the somewhat stunned Kyle Busch.

First of all, as a fan of Dale Jr., I'm thrilled that he's going to drive for one of the best, if not the best owners in the sport. Rick Hendrick has celebrated 159 wins in the Cup series since he first began entering cars in races back in 1984. That's not a bad winning percentage. A lot of those wins, 79, to be exact, are from long time driver Jeff Gordon. 27 more of them are from relative newcomer Jimmie Johnson. About 12 of those 159 are from a man some of you remember, Terry Labonte.

Jeff has won 4 championships for Hendrick. Jimmie has won 1. Terry Labonte won the other championship that Rick Hendrick has to his credit. Terry won that championship and all those races in the 5 Chevy.

A lot of people have been saying since Wednesday of last week that they hope that Teresa Earnhardt will give up rights to the 8 number so that it may follow Dale Jr. to Hendrick. A lot of folks have also pointed out that Rick and Teresa could trade numbers; Teresa gets the 5 and Hendrick gets the 8.

Folks, I don't know that it will happen. And I'm not just talking about Teresa wanting to hold on to the 8.

Rick Hendrick's first car in the Cup series was the 5, driven by Geoffrey Bodine. Bodine got Hendrick's first wins in the cup series. Terry Labonte won a championship for Rick Hendrick in the 5 car in 1996. I can see why Rick might want to hold on to the 5. I wouldn't blame him if he did.

Teresa Earnhardt also has reasons to hold on to the 8 as well. It was Dale Sr.'s father, Ralph's number. It was the number of the car that Dale Sr. first raced in the Cup series. It is also the number which has won DEI most of it's wins in the Cup series. 17 wins is 17 wins, and so far that number has worked out pretty well for DEI.

Sponsorships are completely a different deal. Budweiser is signed through 2008 with DEI, but they can certainly jump ship and follow Dale Jr. to Hendrick if they want to. Remember, old time fans of the sport remember Budweiser on Rick Hendrick's own 25 Chevy back in the 1990's.

Even if Budweiser doesn't follow Dale Jr. to Hendrick, I don't think it will be a problem. Hendrick already has sponsors waiting in the wings, and Kelloggs and GMAC would love to have a guy in their car who is the most popular in all of Nascar Nextel Cup.

Jr. fans, the number is not worth as much as the driver and the sponsorship. Maybe it's time for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make another number famous.

TNT's new star commentator, Kyle Petty

Note: This was originally posted June 11, 2007.

Let me be clear. I'm not a Bill Webber fan. Not at all. I'm glad he's only on for 6 races this year. I have to say that I'm glad that Larry Mac is jumping ship from Fox for these same 6 races. I like Wally Dallenbach as well. He's a pretty good guy, with a sardonic wit, but I like him. Let me say most of all I miss Benny Parsons. BP was a great foil for Wally's wit, and just fit in so well on the broadcasts on TNT and NBC since 2001.

I do have to say that I was very impressed by Kyle Petty's performance in the booth. Kyle brings a ton of information and recent driving experience to the game. Kyle is a very candid color commentator and I appreciated him being in the booth to balance out the tooth-ache like pain that I felt almost every time Bill Webber opened his mouth.

It's not that I don't like Bill Webber. I think he's a good guy, but I believe strongly that he should be a pit road reporter, rather than a lap by lap anchor. If Bestwick was still with TNT, I'd vote for him. Bestwick is with ESPN now, and doing a decent job, but I wish they'd let him do more.

And as far as ESPN goes, I really like Dr. Jerry Punch. I like Rusty Wallace, but only to a certain point. I get the feeling that the rest of the crew will not criticize anything that Steven Wallace does on the track for fear of creating an embarrassing situation for owner/father Rusty. On the whole, I really prefer Dale Jarrett on the Busch series broadcasts. He has done a great job filling in for Rusty this year.

Kyle Petty just adds something to the broadcast, at least for me. He's a very open person, and he's candid in his comments. As a fan, it's nice to see drivers in the booth saying what they think while events are unfolding. Kyle has been awesome on Speed TV's Trading Paint, and he's a very good replacement for Benny Parsons in the TNT booth this season. I hope that whenever Kyle retires, he'll be back in the booth with TNT or some other network. Kyle Petty has been driving since 1979 on a professional basis, and his knowledge, experience, and ability to articulate his thoughts will be a blessing to all the fans out there, for hopefully a very long time.

Kyle's first appearance in the booth was complicated by a long rain delay, which makes for some scrambling by the producers of the broadcast. They all have to keep the audience interested, and Kyle performed superbly in his interviews, one edited, one not, with David Pearson and then when he talked live to his father, the King, Richard Petty.

I think Kyle is going to be great on TNT, and I hope we see him in the booth a lot when he finally hangs up the helmet for the last time.

Droughts threaten country, yet Gordon wins a rain shortened race!

Note: This was originally posted June 10, 2007.

Is there a conspiracy here? Did Jeff Gordon and Steve Letart command the rain gods today? Does Nascar control the weather? I've seen all these opinions thrown around on the racing message boards today, and I have to say No, Nascar does not control the weather.

Nascar does control when the caution flag is thrown though.

After endless minutes spent watching drivers such as Robby Gordon and Jimmie Johnson drive around a long track with left front tires down, smoking, flaming, and leaving the dreaded debris all over the 2.5 mile triangle which is Pocono Raceway, one has to wonder why Nascar immediately threw the caution, and ultimately the red flag only when the leader's ailing car was about to lose the lead to the second place car?

Ryan Newman was at Jeff's door when the caution flew. Jeff had already been complaining about rain for about 2 laps. The rain was certainly there, but why throw the flag at that instance? Why, why, indeed.

Certainly the rain caused the end of the race. I cannot dispute that. If Nascar had left the yellow flag in it's pocket for about one second longer, Ryan Newman, and not Jeff Gordon would have had the win.

Nascar is all about parity, or used to be. This year Rick Hendrick Racing has won 10 out of 14 Cup races this year. That's TEN out of FOURTEEN! Chevrolet has won 13 out of 14 this year. Back in the day, as they say, Big Bill or Little Bill would have made some rule changes to prevent this from becoming a season dominated by one team, much less one owner. Brian France, take a lesson from your father and your grandfather. Fans of this sport don't like seeing the same 2 or 3 drivers win every race. They begin to turn off the television. The start creating empty seats at the race tracks by the magic of making their bodies invisible, or by not buying tickets. Probably by not buying tickets, but I'm still researching that. I did hear the phrase "butts in the seats" today, and for one, I don't appreciate being thought of as solely a "butt in the seat". If my butt is in that seat, it's because I paid a lot of money to place my butt there. Money is something we make by trading our skills for pay. Butts in the seat are what pay a lot of the bills for Nascar. Butts that buy other goods and services pay the rest of the bills, by supporting the sponsors. If you haven't been to a Cup race lately, I'd invite you to check out the prices for seats. They're not cheap, folks.

Nascar needs to do something soon, because after watching a race like I did today, I'm tempted to go outside and work in the yard next Sunday. As much as I love this sport, and as much as I think of the drivers the put on the show every week, I'm getting tired of a season dominated by drivers and car owners that have perpetual problems, yet seem to win every week.

Bill France Jr., You Will Be Missed

Note: This was originally posted on June 6, 2007.

My last entry was a quick acknowledgement of the death of Nascar's leader over the last 30 plus years, but today I want to try to pay a proper tribute to Bill France Jr.

Big Bill, as Bill Jr.'s father was known, was the genesis of Nascar back in the 1940's and 1950's. The early years of Nascar were very uncertain. Big Bill was a race promoter who had a bigger vision than many of his contemporaries did. He wanted to see a national racing series, and worked to make his vision come true. Sadly, in many ways, Big Bill did not see, nor could he have imagined what his racing series has become today.

Bill France Jr. started his career as many kids did, helping out his father whenever and where ever he could. Bill Jr. nailed posters promoting races to telephone poles. He helped build the present Daytona race track, reportedly even using a mule to pull tree stumps out of the ground. Bill Jr. learned from his father, and eventually took over the reigns as chief of the Nascar empire.

Bill Jr. helped usher in Winston as the series sponsor in 1972, an event which we now call the birth of the modern era of Nascar. Stock car racing at it's highest level was now performed at established paved tracks of 1/2 mile or greater. Earlier, Nascar's stars raced in a haphazard schedule of 40 or well over 50 events a year, from places like Daytona to tiny tracks like the Ona racetrack in Huntington, West Virginia. Bill France Jr. basically turned what had been a rag tag bunch of drivers into a group of legitimate major sports stars.

Bill France Jr. was present for the beginning of what is now the modern Busch series, as well as the Craftsman Truck series. Bill Jr. was in charge with this sport achieved national attention by brokering the deal with CBS to show the 1979 Daytona 500 from the green flag through the exciting finish, which featured a fist fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie and Bobby Allison. Bill France Jr. also helped the sport grow to the point that major television networks were bidding for rights to broadcast each and every race on television every week.

For those of you who have been fans of Nascar for more than 10 years or so, you've seen the enormous growth in popularity that this sport has experienced. A lot of credit for that phenominal growth belongs to Bill France Jr.

In 2000, Bill Jr. passed the torch to Mike Helton, and retired as the chief promoter and rule enforcer. A few years later, his son, Brian, was promoted to the exalted spot as CEO of the company. Brian has started out with a bang, creating the Chase for the Cup and the Lucky Dog pass. Young men tend to try things to make the overall situation more exciting, and Brian is no exception. I hope that Brian has half the brains and cunning that his dad had. If he does, Brian will go far with Nascar.

NASCAR. It was created by the France family, and we will all miss the son of the man that started it all. Bill France Jr., thanks for all you've done over the years to keep this sport exciting and growing. Bill France Jr. defined the acronym National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

Go with God, Bill Jr. We'll miss you.

RIP, Bill France Jr.

Note: This was originally posted June 5, 2007.

I only get to show one photo on here, and I probably should have put Bill France Jr.'s photo on here, but I didn't. Let me just say that I wish all the France family well, and know that we, as Nascar fans, will never forget Bill's contributions to the sport we all love so much. God watch over the family.

Next, Congratulations Martin Truex Jr. for your first Cup win! Awesome car, awesome driver. DEI is proud of you more than you can probably realize right now!

Let me get to the meat of this monologue though, and just say that Kurt Busch should be suspended for multiple races, and have about 300 driver's and owner's points erased. I happened to tape the race, (I don't have TIVO yet), and backed it up and watched it several times. Kurt Busch was at fault, or his spotter was. Kurt was not 'clear' when he cut up in front of Tony Stewart. Not only did Kurt put the 20 car into the wall, but he got himself wrecked. Tony could have slowed down, I suppose, but that's not what racing is supposed to be about, at least I don't think.

Kurt and Tony had been racing side by side for several laps, and it was Kurt who took the high lane before he was clear. I don't know if that was Kurt's fault or his spotter's fault, but either way, Kurt hit Tony. I've watched this every which way, and I can come to no other point of view.

Racing is racing. Stuff happens. Kurt should have been willing to let that go. But Kurt didn't, and in a spectacular way.

On pit road after the accident, Kurt Busch pulled the left side of his car right up and into the right side of Tony Stewart's car. This all happened with Tony sitting in his pit stall. What made it worse was that Jason Lee, a pit road crewmember for the 20 team was almost caught between the 20 and the 2 cars. Jason had enough of a visual warning that the 2 was aiming right at him, that he had the chance to jump onto the hood of the 20 car to avoid a stay in the hospital, if not the morturary.

Folks, Kurt Busch's actions were mindless. There was not a brain driving the functions that caused him and a 3600 lb. car to drive almost into Jason Lee. Kurt Busch's first race in the then Winston Cup was in 2001, and he got into a car painted black with the number '3' on the roof and on the door panels. Immediatly, a finger came out the window of the 3. It was the middle one. Apparently the driver of that car was not pleased, and he was not a rookie, as was Kurt.

Kurt Busch has had plenty of chances since that time. He left Roush Racing after winning a championship to drive for Penske Racing. At the end of his tenure at Roush he had a pretty famous run-in with the police in Arizona. Oh, I think a guy named Jimmy Spencer also had some problems with Kurt. I think Spencer got sat down for that little problem as well.

It's time to sit Kurt Busch on the bench for a while. I don't know how many races, but it should be more than one. Pit crews are very vulnerable on pit road with the cars moving in and around them, and Kurt's problem with Tony should have been kept until after the race. Involving pit crew members was totally idiotic.

One thing about the Busch Brothers is that they never disappoint. You can rely on one of them to do something really stupid, almost every week.

Let's be fair now.

Note: This was originally posted on June 3, 2007.

Michael Waltrip will be in the race at Delaware. I'm glad. I wrote my previous piece before qualifying on Friday. Michael showed that he's got what he needs, at least at this track to get the job done. We all have to remember that this has been a trying season for Michael and all of his crew, including the 44 and 00 teams.

I watched qualifying with trepidation, hoping that Michael finally got in. When he ran the lap that he did, I felt that had to be good enough, and with a few fist pumps into the air, I said "Finally!"

When Michael busted out his lap, and a few minutes later, Dale Jarrett did the same thing, I was happy. I thought for the first time since Daytona, Michael was going to have all 3 teams in the race. David Reutimann kinda killed the dream with his qualifying run though. Oh well, 2 is better than one or none.

Michael will race on Monday as it turns out, since we had a little inconvenient thing called Barry roll through. I wish Michael well on Monday.

A New Nascar Winner! The Hendrick Equation is now Complete!

Note: This was originally posted May 29, 2007, and it's out of order a little bit! But here it is anyway:

First of all, Congratulations on your first WIN, Casey Mears! It's been a long time coming, and you and your team deserve all the fame and fortune that you will have this week. It's been a long time coming, and you won it. Again, my most sincere congratulations.

Casey did something that a lot of other drivers in the Cup series have been dreaming of for quite a while now. Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex, Jr., J.J. Yeley, and Juan Pablo Montoya are a few of the other drivers trying to break into the win column. As a fan of practically anything but Rick Hendrick Racing, I have to tip my hat to Rick. He now has all 4 of his drivers in the winning cars in 2007.

If Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s shot at driving one these cars wasn't sealed before the race Sunday night, it most assuredly is now. It's very unlikely that Rick Hendrick will fire a winning driver to put Dale Jr. in one of his cars now. I watched Kyle Petty on Speed TV's Trading Paint the other day, and he basically said it. Dale Jr. will not be driving for Rick Hendrick in 2008.

It's not that big a surprise. Rick has 4 very talented and winning drivers. Why change a good thing? The news also suggests that if Dale Jr. and Budweiser can't be separated, then Joe Gibbs Racing is out of the picture as well. Jeff Hammond, lately an analyst on Fox Sports has suggested that Visa is interested in sponsoring Dale Jr. I don't know where Jeff Hammond gets his news from, but for 2 weeks in a row, I've heard Jeff talk about Visa as a sponsor for Dale Jr.

The other really strange news regarding Dale Jr. is that apparently he and Richard Childress have not talked at all about a ride in 2008. One would think that RCR would be the logical place for Dale Jr. to go. I'm guessing that as usual, Dale Jr. told the truth in his press conference. He said that he would look at all the options carefully before he decided anything, and I'm taking RC at his word as well, that he will talk to Jr. when it's time to talk. I hope that there isn't any problem going on with RC that Jr. and RC just don't want to discuss.

I have to say one thing, and I know a lot of loyal Jr. fans read this. I'm going to say it anyway. I think Dale Jr. could have not announced that he was leaving DEI before he could have already signed a deal with another team. What Dale Jr. did was raise the drama level in the gossip business to new heights, and leads me to wonder if he already hasn't signed a deal with another team. Maybe I'm just cynical, but I do know that Dale Jr. has achieved a bit of press savvy. I don't know if you'll understand what I mean here, but keeping his name in the headlines just raises his value. Dale Jr. and Kelley have certainly done that. I can see Dale Jr. announcing that he's leaving DEI, but I'm beginning to wonder if he really just launched himself into the darkness without some kind of deal already in place. In this case, I'm willing to trust the in the the fact that both Kelley and Dale Jr. are pretty naive at this level of the sport. Jr. does own a successful Busch team, but in the Cup, it's hardball all the way. Teresa really has more experience at this than either of her step-children do.

I don't think that Teresa is trying to drive a wedge between her and Dale Jr. and Kelley. I just think she doing what she thinks is right for the company. I can't fault her for that. If doing what she thinks is right means losing the biggest name in the sport, then fine. Teresa is going to do what she thinks is best, and in my belief, DEI will survive this.

My biggest concern is that Dale Jr. doesn't end up driving for another 2nd or 3rd tier team. He's got a ton of talent, and about 2 tons of personality. Jr.'s future is big business for whomever he drives for. There's just too much money and prestige at stake to make a bad decision here. Whatever he decides, I'll support him. I know that about 99% of the Earnhardt Nation will too.

I just hope that he does the right thing.

Casey Mears! You rock, dude. I was happy to see your first win come at a place like Charlotte, in the most grueling of all races. Once again, congratulations!

Will the Pain Ever End?

Note: This was originally posted May 31, 2007.

I have refrained from writing about Michael Waltrip lately, mostly because I feel bad for the guy, and I don't want to be just one more racing fan piling on. Michael's situation is still big news, though I'm sure he's glad that Dale Earnhardt Jr. stole the spotlight, for at least a while . Dale Jr.'s predicament is to find a new home, and hopefully find a good one, which will allow him to win races and championships. Michael's problem is just keeping his head above water, to qualify for a race, and try to get all 3 of his cars into a race, which hasn't happened since Daytona in February.

Michael's qualifying problems haven't stemmed entirely from having cars that were too slow, but from having cars that were slow compared to the other dozen or so drivers he competes with every week just to make the show. Michael has had cars fast enough to make it into the top 43, but with Nascar's qualifying rule, just being among the top 43 fastest cars is not good enough anymore. Nascar's rule is designed to allow the top drivers to have a bad qualifying run, but still make the race. Without the stars, you see, the circus which is a Nascar race would fail to be exciting to some fans. Losing fans, either at the track, or in the tv ratings is something that Nascar wishes greatly to avoid.

In a way, it's hard to blame Nascar. Nascar's job is to put on a good show, to make the fans happy. Some fans will never be satisfied, of course, but Nascar seems to be doing it's best to make each and every race an event that will be remembered. I have a problem with a few of Nascar's new rules over the last few years, most of which have come under the leadership of Nascar's 3rd Supreme Commander, Brian France. I think one of the things that we have to remember is that Brian France is relatively new at this job. He's come up with a lot of ideas that he's trying out, I suppose, just to see if they work. I assume that as he ages and learns, things in the Nascar world will begin to settle down a little. If nothing else, Brian France certainly has carried on the tradition of causing controversy. His grandfather, Big Bill France was really no different when he was getting the sport organized in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Longtime fans of Nascar know that only about 1/10 of the battles fought in Nascar take place on the track. Sometimes, there's just nothing new in the world anymore. A France is in charge of Nascar, and the fans all take turns loving and hating him and the organization he heads.

I can't really fault Michael Waltrip for all his woes either. Let's face it, the guy took on a huge undertaking starting up his own 3 car team with a brand new car manfacturer. Michael has done a great job attracting and keeping sponsorship thus far. How happy Napa, UPS, and other sponsors are with the disasters that have beset Michael is one thing that for now remains between the sponsors and Waltrip. I imagine that everyone; Michael, Toyota, and all the sponsors have to be looking at the 2007 season as a worst case scenario so far. How long will the sponsors stick it out, when they pay a lot of money to get their name on TV every week, and the car bearing their decals just isn't there on race day?

It's beginning to appear that either Nascar is going to have to change their qualifying rule, or Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota are going to have to step up their program before this weekly drama comes to a merciful end.

The Stars were Shining at Charlotte

Note: This was originally posted on May 21, 2007.

I may be in the minority here, because I've been hearing and reading how a lot of people thought the Nextel All-Star race Saturday was boring. I thought it was exciting, and was on the edge of my seat though out both races. My warmest congratulations go out to Kevin Harvick, winner of the All-Star event, and Martin Truex, Jr., winner of the Nextel Open.

I found the winners of these two events to be very exciting drivers to watch, both on and off the track. After Martin Truex Jr. won the open, his obvious excitement at being in the big show was obvious. Martin was all smiles and had a bounce in his step I haven't seen in a couple of years. It was a not-points event, obviously, but it was Martin's first win in the Nextel Series.

Kevin Harvick's post-win celebrations are always fun to watch, and Saturday was no different. Kevin getting hugs from his wife, Delana, and his car owner, Richard Childress, were picture book perfect. The obvious joy in Richard's eyes was great to see, after all the hard years since he lost his best friend, Dale Earnhardt.

The results from the two races where possibly prophetic as well. The day before Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. announced that they are teaming up on their engine programs. Even thought the announcement had just been made, the result was immediate. Martin Truex wins the Nextel Open with DEI power, and Kevin Harvick wins the All-Star race with RCR power.

On a side note, I'd like to address one other point. The announcement that DEI and RCR were going to work together on engine development came exactly 1 week and 1 day after Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his huge announcement that he was leaving DEI at the end of the year. There are many conspiracy theorists that claim that this is yet another slap in the face for Dale Jr. from Teresa Earnhardt.

I don't see it that way. I don't what Dale Jr. knew, or when he knew it prior to his announcement, but I have to think he was in the loop enough to know that this was a possibility. It's not secret that Richard Childress and Teresa Earnhardt have been close friends for well over 20 years, and I know that Richard wants to see the company that his best friend built succeed. It's been speculated that DEI's engine program was the main reason that Dale Jr. decided to leave. I don't know that that's true, I think it's more about business philosophies, family relations, and Dale Jr.'s need to just be his own man and his own race car driver.

Personally, I don't see how this impedes Dale Jr.'s shot at a ride for RCR. I think that if Dale Jr. wants to drive for his old family friend, Richard will likely move Heaven and earth to put Dale Jr. in an RCR car. Perhaps together, DEI and RCR can overcome the seeming deficit that keeps all the other teams behind in performance, compared to Rick Hendrick Racing. Nascar has always said they were about parity in the sport, and the Chevrolet brand has been dominating the sport this year. I don't know that all the Chevy's have an advantage, but it's starting to look like the Hendrick cars do.

The Coca-Cola 600 comes up next, and this will be a real endurance test for not only the racing engines, but the other problem plagued parts on some of the cars as well. It's a grueling race, and it will be interesting to see if the Hendrick advantage holds up for the longest race of the year.

What would Dale Do?

Note: This was originally posted May 18, 2007.

My friends, I know you have read about as much about Dale Jr. as you can possibly digest this week. I know I have, and I'm not even totally up to speed, because I missed a day.

I read Dale Jr.'s blog at his Infield Parking site. I'm sorry I can't post the link, but I've been unable to get into the site all day. I don't know if they're just doing updates or if it's just swamped.

I will paraphrase for you. Dale Jr. basically says that he just wants to win races and championships. He wants to make his fans happy. What an ego, huh?

I've read all over the place that Jr. has a lot of nerve asking for 51% of DEI, when it was left totally to Teresa. The nerve of him! I've read about how he has way to much ego to drive for a team like RCR, JGR, or even RHR. Too much ego. Huh.

Dale Jr. also owns airplanes and a helicopter, or his company does. Yes, Virginia, this egomaniac is also a successful businessman, as the owner of JR Motorsports. He owns a few late model teams as well as a full time Busch Series team, the 88 Chevrolet driven by Shane Huffman.

Yes, folks, this guy had the nerve to invite his mom, the former Brenda Gee, his grandmother, Martha Earnhardt, and his aunt, his father's sister, the former Kay Earnhardt to his press conference. Believe it or not, they were all there, supporting their egomaniac relative.

Folks, I've watched Nascar for a long time. I've seen a few egomaniacs. Some of them broadcast the sport today. As long as I've been watching Nascar, and that's more than 30 years, I've never seen a more down to earth person than Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is honest to a fault, and I think he's basically incapable of lying to his fans. I listen to him on the radio during the races every week. When another driver hits him, he takes the blame for it, even when it's clearly not his fault.

The Dale Jr. I know let us into his home in a DVD, which he admittedly made money on, but still opened up his home to us all. We got to meet his cat Buddy, see his party room, his bedroom, even his laundry room. Dale Jr. lives in a modular home. Most of his contemporaries live in multi million dollar mansions. Dale Jr. owns a lot of land, without a doubt, but he's built places to have fun, such as his go-cart track and his fantasy western town, Whiskey River. What 30 year old guy with millions in his pocket wouldn't indulge in such things?

I don't think you will ever see a more gracious or more honest driver than Dale Earnhardt Jr. I've been a fan of this man since he started driving for DEI. I'll be a fan of his long after he leaves.

I've personally never seen a Nascar driver that was so devoid of ego. Dale Jr. is a humble guy. Fame and money haven't changed him one bit. He's a fun loving guy, but would never hurt anyone to save even his own life.

Dale Jr.'s famous father was known for always going for the win, throughout his career. Dale always chose racing. I think it's Dale Jr.'s turn this time. Go for it Dale Jr.

We're behind you.

We always will be.