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« Did Yarborough’s failure to attend when Johnson tied his record hurt his Hall bid? | Main | Martinsville provides great racing as Hamlin closes the gap »

Junior offers hope of a win but settles for a top-10

By admin | October 24, 2010

By Richard Allen


During the middle stretches of the Tums Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway it looked like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. might be on the way to his first victory in over two years.

After a pit stop exchange in which Junior pitted when many others did not, he was set up to move to the front later when those in front of him finally did pit. With each pass that brought him closer to the front the crowd roared and waved their approval.

Earlier, twitter communications had rolled in blaming crew chief Lance McGrew, a popular target among Junior’s fans, for bad strategy that was sure to doom the driver’s chances. However, as the strategy was allowed to play out the tweets become less hostile.

The sport’s most popular driver finally took the lead from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon on lap 285. Even the other drivers had taken note of the crowd’s enthusiasm. Just before that lead change Gordon had radioed to his crew that Junior “is about to make a lot of people happy.” Eventually, the #88 car would be at the front of the field for 90 of the race’s 500 laps.

Later, the car’s handling went away which led to an all to familiar shouting match between the driver and crew chief. And along with that came the increasingly more hostile twitter blasts of McGrew.

But all in all it turned out to be a good day. Earnhardt wound up with a solid 7th place result on a day when he spent a good portion of time at the front of the field. He remains in 19th place of the Sprint Cup standings.

As the car crossed under the checkered flag Earnahrdt and McGrew exchanged apologies with each other for their previous anger and thanked each other for the efforts that led to their best finish in five weeks.

This team now has a bit of somewhat unfamiliar momentum to build on going into Talladega, which has provided Junior with more wins than any other venue on the circuit.

Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

12 Responses to “Junior offers hope of a win but settles for a top-10”

  1. Justin Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Rich, you got any insight to the rumors that #48 Car Chief Ron Malec will be on the 88 pit box next season?

    It makes a lot of sense, for many reasons:
    1) Malec has earned his opportunity to lead a team
    2) Hendrick said he wasnt going to make any changes

    I am under no illusions, and in pro sports, players, coaches, owners, drivers,…etc, need to say certain “un truths” in order to keep chaos at bay. It would do Hendrick, and Jimmie Johnson no good to rock the 48’s boat at the start of the Chase, as Johnson goes for 5 in a row….any thoughts or insights?

  2. mikeyfan5599 Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Come on Rich, So Junior got a 7th place finish. Look at what he did the past couple of weeks. Let’s keep the focus on Racing, the way it used to be, and not on drivers. That is how the sport got popular, it was the racing, that should be your lead story, We had great racing all day. A place where you could actually run the leader down as the laps rolled by. We saw actual Green Flag passes for the lead and all and all an outstanding race.

    This senseless non-sense of Junior ran up front in the middle of the race and finshed 7th, detracts from the series. How ’bout reporting on the race for a change and then mention in the report that Junior lead what 90 some odd laps in the middle. But to focus on just what Junior did, is the reason for NASCAR’s decline in popularity. He is not a contender for the cup, he was not a contender for the win the last 200 laps and the reporting should be on the race not a driver. Start reporting on the race and the popularity of the sport will take care of itself.

  3. Ritchie Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I was waiting for nascar to black flag the 5 to hammer the deck lid down. That thing loked like it was a foot higher. I have seen nascar in the past many times for the black flag for this but not this time.

  4. shawn Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Like I have stated before,give him a car that can run up front and he will. As for Mikeyfan55,I too hate to see where the sport has gone, and the fact that the 88 being up front is something that has to be reported as “surprising”,he should be up front on a regular basis.However,I believe that without Dale Jr. you would lose about 40% of your fanbase.Nobody cares about the chase or the guys who are competeing for it.

  5. Charles Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Richie brings up a great point about Mark Martins car!

    It would be interestingt to see how Nascar would have handled the “post race inspection” with Martins car, seemly running better with the high spoilier or trunk than he had run earlier in the race!

    I can see this happening one day! when they nit-pick a car for not being within a one thousanth of a inch on hight on spoileir etc!

    And if someone would win with a car damaged like Martins was, what would be there call when say he finshed ahead of cars that were in “legal tolerance”!

    Seems they better have a clear policy on this or it could come back to haut them oneday!

  6. mikeyfan5599 Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Shawn, are you saying Junior is bigger than the sport? If so this sport is in real trouble. Again, the problem with the sport is they harp on a few drivers not the race anymore. Sorry, But I don’t buy the fact that NASCAR will lose 40% of the fan base, and if it does, then good ridence, The racing and the proper reporting will bring the sport back.

  7. Marybeth Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Last week in Charlotte, JJ & Mark had 2 brand new cars. Jr. was driving the first car Lance made for him in July, 2009. Changing the cc is not going to improve Jr.’s performance. Nothing less than getting out of HMS is going to help him.
    …as I was saying, Jr. has not lost the will or ability to drive. Today he finally got a decent car, for once. I hope Jr. is driving for an owner next year who wants him up front and winning every week, instead of once every 3 years when Jr. nation puts pressure on. :)

  8. Todd Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I guess I dont understand what your beef is Mikeyfan???? There are 100’s of writers that provide countless stories every single day of the season, and pretty much every day during the offseason. Do you want every single writer to write the same story after the race? Do you want Marty Smith, and DW, and Lee Spencer, and Rich to all write the same story? I gotta be honest, I prefer going to, and then scrolling through and reading the stories that interest me. I would be pretty pissed if I went to jayski, and there were 45 versions of: Martinsville, great race, Hamlin won, lots of passing, lots of wrecking, lots of cautions, finally no phantom cautions…..seriously, go find a story that interests you, and read it. Variety is the spice of life….just saying
    While you are searching for a world where every writer writes about the race, excluding any drivers from the story, I will continue to read stories about Jr having a good run, Gordon and Busch having at it, Harvick and Burton having a disagreement, etc….

  9. shawn Says:
    October 26th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    mikeyfan,ever seen how many seats empty out when 88 has a problem,or is not competitive? Thats about all the indication you need.

  10. mikeyfan5599 Says:
    October 27th, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Todd, I too like to read about the different feuds and such, what I get tired of is all the writers thinking this is a Dale Earnhardt Junior fan club and that Junior is NASCAR and when he quits the sport will die mentality. Just look at Shawn, That is the way he thinks. He thinks this sport is all about Junior.

    I go on Jayski and I see 8 to 10 or more articles each week about how it wasn’t Junior’s fault he ran 20th, or 28th or it wasn’t his fault because he told his crew chief to shut up on the radio and he would just drive the POS that he had and he wasn’t going to work to make it better.

    These articles gets old week in and week out and I’m going to point it out to all the so called reporters that keep doing this. Junior is not NASCAR. And this poor boy, lost his daddy in a wreck at Daytona bit is getting old. You have a 36 year old, in all sense of the word, boy, who goes to his meetings on Monday moring then when the meeting is over, instead of staying at the shop and working with his team to try to get better, would rather go home and play cowboys and indians with his “posse”. You have a 36 year old who has all the money he could possible ever need and has really lost interest in the sport. Sure he sounds excited when he runs good, But running good or bad doesn’t really bother him, he’s getting paid very well thank you.

    Have him show some drive, have him show some passion for the sport and then I’ll show you a driver. You don’t have to raise hell to do that, But Dale has no drive, no passion and a if I do good, I do good, if I don’t, I don’t who cares attitude.

    So there is no need to keep harping on him. Hopefully, the press will get behind someone like Dillion when he starts driving the 3 car for his granddaddy in a couple of years and “Junior Nation” and the press who follows him will slowly fade into the sunset.

  11. shawn Says:
    October 28th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    mikeyfan I am not arguing with you in case you did not know,all Iam saying is that most fans,and I do mean most,do not care about all the other drivers with exeption of maybe 6-8 others who have solid fan bases. The point is nascar is sinking,and there are not enough life jackets to save it.

  12. Deb Says:
    October 28th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Hey Mikey fan, how do you know what Jr does after the Monday meetings? Whatever your problem is with Jr grow up and get over it already.