By admin | July 5, 2010
By Richard Allen
When I first heard that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was going to drive a number 3 car sponsored by Wrangler in the Nationwide Series race in Daytona I thought it was nothing more than a gimmick to sell a few die casts and t-shirts. Of course, that number and sponsor were used by Junior’s father at one time during his championship career.
I was also not so sure doing such a thing was a good idea for Junior. It seemed like another unnecessary distraction for a driver whose career of late has been filled with unnecessary distractions.
As it turns out, I think just the opposite was the case. Junior actually seemed much more focused than he has been in quite some time.
“There’s always pressure driving that car with that sponsor,” Earnhardt Jr. said after capturing the Subway Jalapeno 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. “Anything less than a win was pointless.
“What did we do this for? Did we even honor him(Earnhardt, Sr.) by bringing it out and running fifth? What the hell? I felt a lot of pressure to win. I didn’t know if we could pull it off. But we were very lucky and very fortunate to have made some of the moves we made and we had some great luck, too. I mean, it just all worked out.”
Perhaps the type of pressure that Junior spoke of is exactly what he has been needing. Perhaps his current situation has made life a bit too easy for the driver who reportedly makes as much as $30 million per year.
If the younger Earnhardt were to drive a number 3 car all the time in the Sprint Cup Series he might feel compelled to stay focused that much longer and try that much harder.
Even his most ardent fans have to admit that focus has been an issue for Junior in recent years. There have been a number of pit stop errors and needless wall brushes to show that.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a talented driver. But, there are a lot of talented drivers. There has to be something extra that pushes one talented driver ahead of the others. Extra pressure can bring about added focus and effort. If driving a car with a 3 on the door caused Junior to have those added elements then he should use it more often, no matter what he said after the race.
Using the number 3 would not dishonor Dale Earnhardt, Sr. in any way. As a matter of fact, I can think of few things that would honor him more than to have his son winning races with his number.
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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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