Friday, October 5, 2007

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.

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