By admin | February 15, 2010
By Richard Allen
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. came into the Daytona 500 having to answer a myriad of questions. He left the race having answered at least some of those questions by posting a solid second place finish.
Junior put on quite a show by surging from 10th place to the runner-up spot over the last two laps. His charge was very much reminiscent of the one made by his late father when he won his last race in Talladega.
The driver of the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet should be happy with that second place run because he will not have to answer questions about another poor performance going into this week’s race at the Auto Club Speedway in California. The finish, and his overall SpeedWeeks showing, also proves that his team has made at least some improvement over the off season.
Granted, one race does not a whole season make. And for that matter, a restrictor plate race is hardly indicative of how a team will do once the rest of the schedule sets in. However, second place is better than 32nd place any day, and it has seemed as though Junior’s last couple of seasons have had far too many of those.
But there is another second place Junior ought to be happy about as well. After this week, Earnhardt has dropped to second place when it comes to attention being given at the track by the media.
Danica Patrick clearly emerged from Daytona as the new media darling in NASCAR. This ought to be an enormous relief to Junior. Now, when he walks through the garage area he might be able to do so without a swarm of cameras and microphones in his face, at least as long as Danica is around.
It can be her turn to answer all the questions, both good and bad, for a while. Junior might actually get a brief reprieve from all the hounding for the twelve or so weekends that Ms. Patrick makes an appearance.
Obviously, Junior would have liked to have won the Daytona 500. But, his second place in the race had to be somewhat satisfying. His second place in media attention had to a huge weight off his shoulders.
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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