Last Friday at Concord, NC, Dale Jr. answered some questions put to him by the media, and quite frankly, I don't think I've ever heard or seen Dale Earnhardt Jr. sound so down in the dumps.
Dale talked about his season, and the lack of success that the 88 team has had so far. He also mentioned that his current crew chief, Lance McGrew, is not necessarily going to be Junior's crew chief next year.
Much of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s greatest successes have come when Tony Eury Sr. was on top of the pit box, back on the 8 team at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Since then, Dale Jr. has mostly had his cousin, Tony Eury Jr. as his crew chief, and the results have been far from stellar.
Long time Dale Jr. fans know that he worries when he's not performing well, not just because of his sponsors, but because of his fans. That's certainly true of other drivers as well, but probably no driver worries about making his fans happy more than Dale Jr.
When his father died in February of 2001, Dale Jr. wondered if he even would have a job for the rest of the season, and if the success he had enjoyed so far would go away because his father was no longer there to help him. Junior worried about sponsors leaving, honestly thinking that the only reason he had Budweiser and other sponsors was because of who is father was, not Junior himself.
In my opinion, Dale Jr. has more than proven that he is a race car driver in his own right. Most his his 18 Cup victories came after his father's death, including his 2004 Daytona 500 win. There are quite a few drivers currently driving in the Cup series who would love to have 18 wins.
The naysayers have been out in force as of late as well. I've read plenty of comments such as "Maybe Junior should realize he just has no talent," and my favorite, "Dale Jr. is an inarticulate backwoods hillbilly." I just love comments like those.
Richard Childress, the owner of the 3 Chevrolet for so many years, has supported Junior during this time of not-so-much fun. RC has basically said that he still feels that Dale Jr.'s best days are still ahead of him as a driver. I agree with Mr. Childress, who's having problems of his own at RCR. Not one of his four cars is in the Chase this year, and it's rumored that Kevin Harvick, who replaced Dale Earnhardt in 2001, will be leaving after the 2010 season.
Dale Jr.'s car owner, Rick Hendrick, has addressed Junior's performance problems, and likely is working hard on trying to provide a solution for the 88 team. Dale Jr.'s fans have spoken out as well, rallying in support of their favorite driver.
In a petition to Hendrick Motorsports, some Junior Nation fans have asked:
We have suspected for quite some time now that there is a problem somewhere within the 88 team, either in the shop or at the track. The statements released today from Tony Gibson have proven that our gut feelings were accurate. The fans would like this to be taken care of immediately! We the fans thought our equipment would be first class at Hendrick Motorsports. Please act now.Junior nation
If you'd like to check out and even sign the petition, click Here.
It's good to see a driver's fans get fired up to actually go through the trouble of setting up something like this petition, and it's refreshing to know that the Junior Nation is trying to do their part to get Dale Earnhardt Jr. back in victory lane again.
photo credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images