Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where to begin?

Tuesday was a HUGE day in NASCAR, thanks to a couple of things. First off, a major shake-up at Hendrick Motorsports. Follow along, there will be a quiz later.

Three of their four teams will have new a Crew Chief, moved from within the organization. Lance McGrew leaves the #88 team of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and slides into the same post for Mark Martin and the #5 team. Steve Letarte goes from Jeff Gordon and the #24 to the #88 for Earnhardt, Jr. Alan Gustafson is shifted from the #5 to the #24.

Why all the movement, considering the (untouched) #48 team of Jimmie Johnson just won his 5th straight championship? Basically, because the other 3 didn't come in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively. In fact, only Gordon was a Chase contender when the playoffs began. Martin and Earnhardt, Jr. were on the outside, looking in.

It's not a move of desperation, it's pure Rick Hendrick. It's not being satisfied with success, it going after more of it. It's no secret the Earnhardt, Jr. hasn't produced the results in his time at HMS. This move is a chance for the #88 guys to make a difference. Are there guarantees it will work? Absolutely not. One thing Hendrick can't ever be called is conservative, when it comes to going after titles. This shake-up proves that on many levels.

Richard Petty Motorsports announced they are scaling back from a four-car team down to two. Makes loads of sense given the financial issues RPM dealt with towards the end of the season. Hopefully, the King will find the right money folks to back his efforts, but here's also hoping the King is more hands-on with this company. The arrangement with the Gillett family didn't offer Petty much say in the business side of things, and considering he's been around NASCAR his entire life, he knows how to get things done. NASCAR is better when the Petty name is successful. here's hoping it returns to prominence.

Last NASCAR thought, congrats to Kevin Conway, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Austin Dillon for earning Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. Great stuff for these three drivers. Continued success in the future to all three.

Turning to the Panthers, they have a chance (again) to pick up win number 2 of the season when they take on the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. Funny as it sounds, the stars may align to have Jake Delhomme start at QB for the Browns to face his former team. You know, the team whose fan base wanted him gone? Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time he was released, I hated the move. I understood, however, it was about saving money, cutting costs, and going younger. Those goals were somewhat achieved, considering the Panthers still owed Delhomme money. Still, the youth got their chance, and the biggest complaint of Head Coach John Fox this season has been the play of the offense, and the QB position. It's a group effort, mind you, but the QB play has been a sore spot all year.

I know Panthers fans are hoping that the "bad" Jake will play for the Browns on Sunday. Throw a bucketful of interceptions, allowing the Panthers the chance to win the game. Not me. If Delhomme does start, I'm hoping he has a good day. No doubt he will be motivated to beat his former team, much the same way he wanted to beat the New Orleans Saints anytime he played them. This, though, is much more personal. The Panthers franchise enjoyed their best years when Delhomme was under center. Disagree? Who were the other QB's to take the Panthers to the Super Bowl? Only one other got them to an NFC Championship game. Delhomme took them to two of those.

Yes, his time in Carolina ended badly. Interceptions, fumbles, bad play, it all added up to him being run out of town like a crooked politician. Lost in all the late mess by many was the stuff that had people snapping up #17 jerseys at the team store, and chanting "Jake" anytime he hit the field. You have to remember the entire body of work, not the closing chapters. Sadly, the last thing folks saw, is how they remember the Louisiana gunslinger.

Will try to hit the blog again before the weekend, but with the holiday it may be tough. There is, however, NO EXCUSE for not watching Sports Night this week! Your chance to win tickets to the ACC Championship game in Charlotte awaits! Make sure you tune in at 10 each night for your chance!

Mike Solarte

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