Monday, April 20, 2009

Father Casts Long Shadow

Driving around Charlotte I noticed a few billboards that made me take pause. They were ads for next month's NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race featuring a picture of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. It's smart advertising. Dale Jr., likely will be voted NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for the 7th consecutive year. And what better way to sell tickets in this economy than by featuring the sports most prominent driver. But I have to wonder if Rick Hendrick regrets booting Kyle Busch in favor of Dale Jr.?

In nearly half as many seasons, Kyle Busch has 14 cup victories to Dale Jr.'s 18. Coming off an 8-win season, Busch already has two wins and six top 10s this year and is 7th in the point standings. By comparison, Dale Jr. has two top 10s and no victories so far this season.

My point being, Dale Jr., hasn't yet lived up to the hype. After winning back-to-back Busch Series (now Nationwide) titles in 1998 & '99, he's won no championships in the Sprint Cup Series. Yes, he's won races at NASCAR's fabled tracks in Daytona and Talladega, but he's yet to take the checkered flag at Bristol, Indianapolis or here at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord (not counting the 2000 All-Star race).

When is father, Dale Sr., passed away on that fateful day in February at the Daytona 500 in 2001, the Earnhardt legacy was thrust upon Dale Jr., and I think unfairly so. The Intimidator's fans became his fans and being an Earnhardt, they --and even many us in the media-- expected him to take up the mantle by winning races and championships. His move last year to Hendrick Motor Sports was seen as the opportunity he needed to achieve those goals. But in a stable that includes 3-time champ Jimmie Johnson, 4-time champ Jeff Gordon, the competition is pretty steep.

Dale Jr., may still find glory at Hendrick Motor Sports, but for now, maybe NASCAR should do more to promote Johnson, Gordon, and; yes, even Kyle Busch. Drivers who frequent victory lane. Maybe if the spotlight became a little less intense for Dale Jr. will flourish. Unfortunately, unless he starts winning, Dale Jr. will be viewed no different than Kyle Petty. A capable driver who found it wasn't easy being a chip off the old block.

Jason Brown


Linda R said...

YES, Rick Hendrick did make a really BAD decision. Earnhardt just doesn't have what is needed for Hendrick to promote what is GOOD for the company and needs to rethink what they have done! When one "backs" a loser it reflects back to the company which in turn makes the company look bad also. I would not deal with Rick Hendrick even if they tried to give me a vehicle!!!

Anonymous said...

That just depends on what Hendrick was going for......Earnhardt's name or Kyle Busch's wins. The money's in the wins, right? Looks like Kyle got the ultimate revenge. And no, I'm not a Kyle Busch fan.