Saturday, July 03, 2010

Finally, He Wins One

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins at Daytona! In a Nationwide race, at any rate. It's his first win in that series in four years. This one is special, even if it did break a drought.

Junior was driving a "tribute" car - it was to remember his father at Daytona, where Sr. was considered a master - he only won the big one once, but he won a ton of support races over the years there. Sr. excelled at plate races, period. Wrangler and Earnhardt Sr. had a relationship that started before Sr. landed in the #3 for Richard Childress. So, even before the iconic black Goodwrench cars - Sr. had Wrangler for a sponsor. And, back to Daytona - of course that is where Dale Sr. lost his life.

In order for the tribute car to happen, JR Motorsports (Junior's Nationwide team), Richard Childress Racing, and Theresa Earnhardt had to get together to sign off on the whole idea. Which was an accomplishment in and of itself - if you remember the frosty relationships between certain parties involved. Another big deal is the fact that this is the debut of the new "Car of Tomorrow" for the Nationwide series - so everyone was in brand new cars that are considerably different than the "old" cars. This means past data on setups and such are bupkis - the Nationwide cars are dissimilar enough from the Cup cars that data from that series isn't completely applicable, either.

Aaand, just for old times sake - Junior's crew chief for this race was Tony Eury, Jr. - his crew chief for years until he was replaced by Rick Hendrick during Junior's race winning drought.
"I was so worried that I wasn't going to win, 'cause nothing but a win would get it-for everybody," Earnhardt said after getting hugs from Childress, crew chief Tony Eury Jr. and a multitude of others in victory lane. "If we didn't win, what a waste of time. ...

Can you say "Junior had a LOT of pressure on him for this race?" I knew you could. He has enough pressure just being the son of the Intimidator, much less actually driving the number three.
Earnhardt reiterated that he will never run the No. 3 again. He insists it's not his number.

"I don't ever want to do it again and I won't ever change my mind," he said.


The race definitely had some storybook moments. Junior started third, but found his way to the lead by lap number three, when the crowd all stood and held up three fingers. Detractors of NASCAR often claim the action is scripted. I would go so far as to say perhaps the fellow competitors "allowed" the lead change to happen, much like they would allow a teammate to take the lead to gain the five bonus points for leading a race, and then taking the lead back.

Junior faded for a while, but he stayed in the top ten for most of the race and out of trouble. He did work his way to the front in the waning laps and managed to keep the lead after some late cautions bunched the field. The race went into "overtime" and finished under the "green/yellow checkered flag." Joey Logano pushed him to the victory:
"I want to win races … but it was pretty cool to see the 3 back in victory lane," Logano said. "I probably gained a lot of fans by pushing the No. 3 to victory but I'd much rather be in victory lane."

Logono tried to get a run on the 3 car, but his car just didn't have it. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (in a COT Ford Mustang, which looks pretty damn cool, if you ask me) finished in third - perhaps if he and Logano had worked together more effectively, they could have gotten by the 3, but Junior drove a pretty wide car, too.

So, conspiracy theories aside, Dale Earnhardt Jr. can still drive a race car and win. Lots of people seem to have forgotten that.


HEATHER said...

I had tears in my eyes when he took the checkers last night. You know I think the whole problem with Jr. not winning is Tony Eury Jr.-I don't care what anyone says they can win together and belong together. As for their reported bickering, don't you imagine they are like siblings or an old married couple? It probably made everyone at Hendricks uncomfortable, but they really need to be reunited!

HEATHER said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffro said...

Hey Heather! Good to hear from ya - how are you and your mother? You two are in my prayers.