By admin | February 6, 2010
By Richard Allen
In the grand scheme of things qualifying on the front row for the Daytona 500 does not guarantee anything other than a front row start in the Daytona 500. However, for the teams of Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Saturdayâ€™s qualifying results must have been very satisfying.
As is often pointed out, the shops at the Hendrick Motorsportsâ€™ compound are separated. The cars of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are housed in one building while cars are prepared for Martin and Earnhardt in another.
Typically, when people speak of the success at HMS they point to the 24 and 48 teams and their eight championships. The 5 and 88 bunch are often spoken about as an after thought. That was especially true before Martin arrived to pilot car #5.
Finally, the â€˜second garageâ€™ is getting the bulk of the attention at HMS after Martin took the Daytona 500 pole position and Earnhardt grabbed the outside front row spot.
â€œWhen we get to California, Las Vegas and them other places weâ€™ll see what weâ€™ve got,â€ Earnhardt commented when asked if his team had turned a corner.
â€œItâ€™s a small step in the right direction but weâ€™ll try to keep it going,â€ he added.
Junior is absolutely correct in pointing out that the â€˜real seasonâ€™ begins when cars get to the more aero-dependant 1.5 to 2 mile tracks. The 24 and 48 cars may or may not continue to run well on those tracks. However, the Daytona 500 is the most important race in NASCAR. Winning that race can define a career.
Sitting on the front row is a badge of honor that can be worn for an entire week leading into the big race. For this coming week at least, the 5 and 88 teams will having the bragging rights among the HMS shop.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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