By admin | December 22, 2009
By Richard Allen
Apparently Darrell Waltrip doesnâ€™t think Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has enough pressure on him.
After coming off a disastrous season in which he had no wins, only five top-10s and a 25th place finish in the final standings he would seem to have plenty to worry about. However, ole DW seems to think that now would be the time to throw a car number change into the mix. And itâ€™s not just any old number he wants Junior to change to, itâ€™s the number his legendary father used for the vast majority of his career.
Granted, switching Juniorâ€™s car number from 88 to 3 would cause a souvenir selling boom that might just rescue the countryâ€™s lagging economy. But along with the monetary gain would come even more expectations than are already in place for the third generation driver.
Instead of changing numbers, the #88 Hendrick Motorsports team and its driver need to spend every waking moment this off season trying to find ways to improve their on-track performance. And make no mistake, a change of such a kind would be a distraction.
This was the only Hendrick team or HMS associated team to not make the Chase in 2009. A change of car number to 3 would come off looking like a gimmick or marketing hoax to replace the fact that the team has not performed to expectations. So, they had to come up with something else to cause fans to buy more hats and T-shirts.
And itâ€™s not as if Junior hasnâ€™t already had distractions added to his plate this off season. Danica Patrick has signed to drive a limited number of races in the Nationwide Series for his JR Motorsports team. Although he is the head of that company in name only, he will still be blitzed with all sorts of questions about his new driver, her performance and the expectations for her. Yes, Danica will be a distraction for Junior in 2010.
And more than just making the suggestion of an unnecessary car number change, DWâ€™s column on the Fox Sports website again reinforces what has been said on this website many times before. Those nearest to the inside of the NASCAR inner circle have no idea of the troubles this sport is facing. DW talked of Junior driving the number 3 as providing a badly needed â€˜shot in the armâ€™ to the sport. It is people with this same type mentality that have stated such things as â€˜Danica will save NASCARâ€™ and the like.
There was no mention of improving the Car of Tomorrow, revamping the points system and the Chase for the Championship or any other real issue as a means of giving the sport a â€˜shot in the armâ€™. Again, it is on-track performance for both Junior and NASCAR that are going to matter most, not the next attention seeking stunt.
Itâ€™s as if NASCAR is drowning and all the insiders are sitting around describing the water rather than putting on life jackets and swimming for the shore. Gimmicks and publicity stunts are apparently all the leaders of NASCAR can come up with to â€˜improveâ€™ the sport.
Wow!!! This is frustrating.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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