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!