Thursday, January 24, 2008
Did you ever think you'd see this?
I know that many of Dale Jr.'s fans, and many of Dale Earnhardt's fans find this pic a little upsetting, but I don't. It's just change, and it's been happening for about 50 years in Nascar.
Drivers change teams. It happens, and this is nothing unprecedented at all. For example, I know that most of you who have followed Nascar for a long time know that Kyle Petty did not drive for the family business for most of the early part of his career. One thing some of you may not know is that the King Daddy of them all at Petty Enterprises, yes, even King Richard himself didn't always drive for Petty Enterprises, and as a matter of fact, wins 199 and 200 came driving for owner Mike Curb in 1984.
Richard left the team his father had built decades before in 1984, after being embarrassed by some bad engineering at Petty. After one of Petty's wins, it was found that his engine exceeded the maximum cubic inch size then allowed by Nascar, and Richard packed up and left the only home he'd had in racing since 1959. He only drove for Curb for two seasons, and eventually finished out his career at Petty, but Richard's last two wins were not won while at Petty Enterprises. That's a fact, folks.
I doubt that many of us ever thought that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would ever leave that house that his Daddy built, and I know I'm one of them. This time last year, if you'd told me that Dale Jr. would be driving for Rick Hendrick in 2008, I'd have told you that you need to get a refund on that stuff your smoking, because it's really made your brains turn into mush.
Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction, and here we sit, in January of 2008, and Dale Jr. is wearing a white shirt that says Hendrick on it, and amazingly enough, that shirt is tucked in! Dale Jr. will indeed driver the 88 Amp Energy Drink/ National Guard Chevrolet in 2008, and the old number 8 is now decked out in black with the logo of the US Army on the hood, with the primary driver being Mark Martin. Yeah, joined to Ford by the hip Mark Martin. Wow. What a year 2007 was.
Everything that has transpired, which would have seemed like some sort of science fiction movie a year ago, really makes sense now. Dale Jr. was not happy at DEI. Apparently he hasn't been happy for some time now. Mark wanted to retire, but he wasn't able to. I think he still wants to, but he just can't stand being totally out of the action. I can understand that.
The thing is that Dale Jr has really come out on top of this mix up, I think he's now driving for the best team in the business, has the best people behind him, and will almost certainly win races and championships for his new team.
DEI was started by the man that I still consider to be my favorite driver of all time, Dale Earnhardt. I can have respect for Teresa Earnhardt, while still feeling a bit sad over the events that have transpired over the last few years. DEI is no longer a priority for me, as a Dale Jr. fan. Dale is gone. Dale Jr. has left the building.
DEI will survive, but so will Dale Jr. and that's where my loyalty shifts now. Dale Jr. is the man.
I wish Mark and Aric Almirola well in the number 8 Chevy this year. I have a feeling they're going to need it.