Monday, May 17, 2010

The Prodigal Son

It has now been one year since Dale Earnhardt Jr got that new crew chief who was going to turn the HMS 88 team around. The results have been pitiful. With Lance McGrew, Jr has two top-5 finishes in the past year. He led 50 laps with McGrew last year and 58 this year. That's total, Nation.

Is it time to face the fact that Little E is not a Chase caliber driver? That maybe he isn't one of the twelve best drivers out there? Hell, is he one of the 20 best anymore? I know his millions of fans will disagree, but drivers such as David Reutimann, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano all have won a Cup race (in inferior, to HMS, equipment) since Jr last did.

The excuses started over five years ago when Dale Jr still drove for DEI. At that point, it was somehow team owner, and Jr's stepmother, Theresa Earnhardt's fault that he couldn't win. Yes, all her fault... despite the fact that she has nothing to do with the day to day operations of the team. Her total involvement is having a check direct deposited regularly for her.

DEI switched teams and crew chiefs around a few times in attempt to help Jr. Didn't work. Which led to Junior buying his way out of DEI, and going to super power, HMS. The number one team in NASCAR. HMS also brought in Jr's hand picked crew chief, Tony Eury Jr.

Now in his third season at HMS Jr has one win, and a handful of top-10s. We all know how well his three HMS teammates are doing. Some fans like to believe that HMS is giving him inferior cars, or using his team for R&D purposes.

Hmmm, the most popular driver in the world being set up to fail? He is HMS's top souvenir seller, and cash cow. Wouldn't he sell even more t-shirts if he were winning? I would say that instead of inferior equipment, he is being supplied with HMS's best pieces.

Dale Jr is a very likable guy and has won races in the past, and maybe he will again. I just don't think he'll win a lot at Hendrick. He's a follower, not a leader. He needs to go to a team where he is the number one guy. There just aren't many teams where he would be the top dog. Maybe Mike Waltrip's?

The best scenario for him would be to drive for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. Even though Theresa has nothing to do with that team, I think he would try harder and feel he had to prove something. I submit that when he drove for DEI, he had a chip on his shoulder, and wanted to prove that he was an Earnhardt.

It's time for the prodigal son to go back home.


  1. You see what I believe is the problem all over big-time professional sports. A young athlete that makes it to the elite level feels compelled to succeed. They put pressure on themselves and they either make it or they don't. I can't imagine what it would be like to be in the class with the elites in your line of work and then have that amount of pressure to succeed compounded by trying to live up to the expectations put on you because your father is one of the greatest to ever be in that same line of work. On top of all that, Dale Earnhardt is a junior. He's not only assumed all that other pressure, but he carries the same name.

    Thinking about it, I've got to really hand it to Jr. who, under all these external as well as self-imposed pressures, has had the amount of success he has enjoyed.

    At this point in his career, it's almost like he has a different mind set. Like he has looked back at his accomplishments and is satisfied. He doesn't seem to get worked up when success eludes him. Like the fire has been put out.

    If this is true, then he's taking money under false pretenses and needs to move on. It's a cinch he'll never have to worry about money again if he plays his cards right.

    Thanks Gene!

  2. How can you put up a poll question like that???

    I'm not votin'. So there...

  3. Dwindy....great points about Jr.

    That's why I think he should go back to EGR. If he does he may get that chip back on his shoulder. I believe that he was successful there because he wanted to show his stepmother that HE was the straw that stirred the drink.

  4. About the poll question:

    No doubt, all 5 belong in the HOF. But, in the inaugural class? Is there someone else who should go in before one, or two, of these five?

  5. he won't go to MWR while they are using Camry's, lol

    ahh yes, the poll question...already voted, wish I could do it again since they got it badly wrong by not picking only people who were there right at the start (yes, I'm looking very obviously at you, Dale and Richard).

  6. Tez....Brand loyalty ($) is one thing, but maybe he would rather have a chance to win in a Toyota than finish 19th in a Chevy? LOL!

    Re HOF: I think The King and Dale should go in with the first class. From 1960 to 2000 those two made NASCAR relevant. They were NASCAR's only two household names for those 40 years!

    I question putting in both Frances. Sr, yes. Jr could have waited. 40% of the inaugural class is named France. Doesn't sit well with me.

    I see where you're coming from regarding the oldtimers. They should do as baseball, and have at least one oldtimer inducted each year.

  7. I just figured that we all know Richard and Dale would make a HoF when they got around to creating one....but I felt it would have been the perfect way to acknowledge the roots of the sport rather than the guys who came in after the tree was already growing since this is the inaugural class, lol

  8. The spark in Jr's will to race to win has been extinguished. Can't surmise he is not getting good equipment. It is the driver's lack of the passion to win.

  9. What about the theory that he's never got over the car fire at Infineon in 2004? That would do it for me!

    (Video of the crash -

    He's doing pretty good as a car owner in Nationwide. Doesn't he have the money to own a car in the CUP?

    Maybe he's happier opening a chain of Whiskey Rivers!lol

  10. Photo....Agree 100%. He doesn't have the fire in his belly. He probably feels stuck in a rut at HMS and is just on cruise control.

    He needs a change of scenery. Fo sho.

  11. Athens...Don't know why he would still be risking his life every week if he was scared from that fire.

    I heard Harvick on the radio a couple of weeks ago, and he flat out said that racing NNS and Trucks was so much cheaper than Cup. He said to race Cup would cost him $20 million per car and that he would need partners, and he doesn't want partners.

    Jr can't find sponsors for his NNS team, doubt he could find more expensive ones for Cup.

  12. Gene, Gene, Gene - you almost snuck this one by me. I gotta check Lugnuts every day I guess! LOL

    Ok so Junior isn't lighting up the leaderboard at the moment but really neither is half the field that should be in the top 20. Junior gets more flak thanks to his name and HE doesn't say "I am the greatest ever, I am an Earnhart" It gets put on him.

    I for one, am horrified by the spectacle that is Junior at the track. I have NO idea how that boy even manages to function with so many people stalking his every move. Its insane. It would drive anyone insane. I dont even go over by him any more when I am in the garages (and you all know how hard that is for me!) because I feel so sickened by it all.

    With that kind of unrelenting pressure just to be seen, on top of the pressure he puts on himself to perform on top of the trauma we know he experienced watching his dad die on the race track and himself almost dying in that fiery crash, having to leave DEI and split the family etc I just think he lost it somewhere in there. Psychologically, Junior is a mess.

    I think he is looking for a father figure, Mr. H fits the bill and at the moment Junior is getting the support he never had from his dad - Junior doesnt have to win to get attention from Mr. H so maybe that feels good enough in his book.

    I dont think he is getting subpar equipment and I dont think he should go back to DEI. I would love to see Junior re-focus just enough at HMS, win a few, be HAPPY again and go on to be an owner. Kills me to see him so dour all the time. I dont have one picture of him smiling at the track in the past 2 years. Makes me sad.


  13. LOL KLV....almost snuck one by you.

    The poor guy has problems for sure. I'll accept your professional diagnosis, but I still feel that he is coasting and not striving to outdo the other HMS teams.

    Rick gave him everything to succeed, Jr started strong, and tailed off. Wouldn't put the hours in to be the top dog.

    Then, like every manager would do, Rick had to concentrate his resources on his producers. That left Jr with two choices.... give up and coast, or dig down and prove his worth.

  14. I don't disagree with you that he is coasting, I am just sayin he has nothing left to dig down and get. He's got to find his own reason for racing, not everyone elses.

    Plus, he gets the fatherly "goodies" either way, its not based on performance. I really think a lot of his "passion" came from trying to prove to his father he was good enough, to get his attention and love. Earnhardt treated Jr like shit until he started racing and winning - then he up and dies just as Junior was starting to prove himself at the Cup level.

    Its awful hard to live up to a ghost, esp one who subscribed to very conditional love.