Saturday, February 09, 2008
Junky Gets His Fix
I've been suffering from withdrawal for a couple of months now. The NFL just hasn't had the punch necessary for my habit - and the NHL and NBA- are you kidding me? I'm sorry, I know there are many among you that find those acronyms the holy grail of sports, but the three letter bunch are just watching paint dry to me.
Well, tonight was pretty special. The Budweiser Shootout was broadcast. It's not a points race - it's just run for money and pride. Teams bring cars realizing they might not bring them home. The racing gets pretty rough, and at Daytona, that rough racing eats cars like candy. Last season was painful for Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans (me included). Bad luck, inferior engines, and problems with the boss - his stepmother Theresa - left Junior out of the Chase. It was readily apparent Junior wanted to have more control over his destiny - when he was unable to gain any control at Dale Earnhardt Inc., he left for the beckoning greener pastures of the phenomenally successful Hendrick Motorsports stable. Junior's goal was simply to put himself in a position to win races, something that circumstances denied him working for his stepmother. People, including said stepmother, questioned Junior's commitment to the job at hand. True, he had issues when he was younger, but he has in many people's eyes shown considerable dedication to the sport in recent years.
So, big changes were in the wind. Junior wanted to keep the number eight - the number his grandfather used to use, and Junior made so famous. Not only did Theresa resist Junior's attempts to take control of DEI, she also refused his usage of the number. So, Rick Hendrick dealt for the 88 from Yates Racing. Budweiser wanted to go along, but Hendrick couldn't use them. So, new sponsors for Junior were in order. Amp energy drinks and the National Guard signed on.
I'm gonna channel my dad for a minute - "It's time for Junior to piss or get off the pot." There are no excuses left - he must perform.
So, in his inaugural appearance for Rick Hendrick, Junior wins the race. Much celebration in the Junior Nation ensues. He couldn't have done it without help - restrictor plate racing insures that. Tony Stewart helped Junior when it suited him, and ended up racing for the win. Jimmy Johnson - one of Junior's teammates - helped push Junior for the win. But it was also true that Junior had a good car, and he drove it very well. There is a reason he is considered a master at restrictor plate racing, after all. Jimmy and Jeff Gordon didn't get up to the front until late in the race, mostly because they were driving replacement cars. Their primary cars were destroyed in the second practice session yesterday.
Yes, the soap opera that is Nascar is back. Tony Stewart tried to pass Kurt Busch on the outside in the practice session, and something went awry. He ended up taking Kurt out, and the resulting melee collected several cars, including JG and JJ. Then, on the way back to the garage, Kurt slammed into Tony's car to show his displeasure. They ended up blocking each other for a while trying to get through the pit opening to the garage. Rumor has it that when summoned to the Nascar trailer, a punch was thrown by the driver dressed in orange, connecting to the driver in blue. There will be penalties issued by Tuesday, and the two drivers were warned to behave themselves tonight. They have had their issues with each other in the past as well. Neither are strangers to the concept of probation.
Channeling my father again: "I'm happier than a pig in s**t!" There is a lot of practice coverage, the Twin 150's, qualifying and finally culminating in the running of the 50th Anniversary Daytona 500. And that is just the start of the season. Junior is lookin' good, there is gonna be fightin', cussin', rubbin' and racin' to watch. Yee Haw!