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!