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Wonder who NASCAR was rooting for in those final laps at Martinsville?

By admin | April 3, 2011

By Richard Allen


It was posted on twitter by several sources that when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. passed Kyle Busch for the lead on lap 480 of the Goody’s 500 at the Martinsville Speedway a loud cheer went up in the track’s media center. No one from NASCAR tweeted such information from the sanctioning body’s corporate suite but there was almost certainly a great deal of rooting, whether out loud or silently for the popular driver to go on to victory from that point.

After a feel good beginning to the year with upstart Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 and veteran Jeff Gordon ending a long winless streak in Phoenix, the 2011 season hit a bit of a snag in the ensuing weeks. Vast numbers of empty seats in Bristol and California as well as sinking television ratings revealed a possible return to weakness exhibited in the sport over the past several seasons.

A win by Junior could have been just the shot in the arm NASCAR needs and it looked very much like he had a chance to provide just that on the half-mile Virginia track. And best of all, it would have been a win that would have been free of question marks. There were no favorable rulings, no fuel mileage, no restrictor plates or no excessive attrition to aid the victory. Everything was aligned perfectly until Kevin Harvick passed Earnhardt with three laps to go.

Had everyone listened closely enough a large, collective moan might have been heard from NASCAR, the television networks, race promoters, sponsors, and apparently, the media when Harvick secured the lead and pushed Earnhardt back to his eventual finishing spot of second.

Even Harvick recognized how popular a Junior win would be, but he also recognized the need for it to be earned rather than gifted. “Man, I’m going to be the bad guy here but I gotta do what I gotta do,” he said of his winning move after the race.

The Texas Motor Speedway may see a jump in ticket sales this week for Saturday night’s race and Fox may experience better ratings for their coverage, but nothing like what would have probably happened had the sport’s most popular driver been able to get to the checkered flag first in Martinsville.

Perhaps there is one bit of good news NASCAR and its partners can take away from Martinsville, and that is Junior is likely to contend more often this season. It looks like he and crew chief Steve Letarte have found some chemistry.

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12 Responses to “Wonder who NASCAR was rooting for in those final laps at Martinsville?”

  1. Bill B Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 7:06 am

    I’m not sure about NASCAR but DW certainly showed his impartiality AGAIN. Man, how does that guy keep his job with the obvious bias he shows toward certain drivers every week.

  2. Jesse Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 9:12 am

    You see why Jr is so popular, he gets out of his car and goes right to Kyle to explain his side of the story, you think Kyle would have done the same. Bill B, DW is not for Jr, he makes everyone think that, you know he wants a Toyota to win so bad, he has to hold back on the telecast.

  3. cliff Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Bill if ya watched the picks DW said Dale Jr. had no chance of winning he was starting too far back…Good Article Rich..And for Bristol least the traffic wasnt bad

  4. The Mad Man Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    If you followed the hype all week it was supposed to be a JGR win. Glad Harvick won just to prove the hype-masters wrong.

  5. tyler west Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I can’t stand the way the booth shows favor towards the Hendrick organization. Especially Junior and Johnson. At least Johnson is the defending Champ but Earnhardt Jr. is just a joke. He is a victim of all the media hype cast on him because of his father. But when it comes to the broadcast booth, please give me a break! Their coverage is not that good and we constantly have to put up with all the BS about how Jr. and Hendrick and blah, blah, blah. There is more to a race than just the small amout the Fox people show. Let Speed cover it the way it needs to be covered. Honest, unbiased, and complete. I’m sick of hearing about the wives, their charities and all the other junk, maybe they should pay attention to the rest of the field and not just Jr. and all the Hendrick BS. I thought annoucers got fired for showing bias.

  6. jerseygirl Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Bill B — yep, I thought DW was supposed to do “color” commentary, not cheerlead for certain drivers and manufacturers

  7. Ginger Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    To BillB and tylerwest, I must have listened to a different Fox booth. All Darrell could talk about was KyBusch Johnson, Hamlin and most of all Jeff Gorgon. Actually he saw no hope for Dale Jr. I quit paying attention to DW a long, long time ago. He is so full of hot air he should be floating instead of walking. He takes over the booth with one assertion after another which most of the time turn out to be wrong. Then he just glosses over the mistake he made. And now he has been resigned until the end of Fox’s contract with Nascar. We’ll have to listen to his motormouth for a long time to come. My only salvation is Hotpass on Directv and Trackpass Pit Command w/in-car audio.

    I am a proud Dale Jr fan, but I get no satisfaction when his name comes from DW’s mouth. Most of the time his words are all negative about Jr. His absolute love affair for KyBusch and Toyota turn me off even more.

  8. Ginger Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Hey tyler, sounds like you’re going to turn green with envy. Dale Jr is far from being a joke. He has earned the love and loyalty from millions of fans who couldn’t care less who his father was. You might as well get over it, because we’re not going anywhere.

  9. Neal Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    No, it’s just Sports Illustrated bloggers that get fired for cheering someones win.

    Oh and by the way, Speed is owned by Fox.

  10. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Rich, I keep on telling you man, that Jr.’s Streak is about to hit 100 and it should be time to send him back to Nationwide! NASCAR has to be ashamed of themselves for riding Jr.. Hey man, if Danica is ready to jump down the Wrong Side of 65, Jr’s going to be Nationwide with Kenseth , Jeff Burton, Bill Elliott, Truex, and Biffle.

  11. Toney Says:
    April 6th, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Actually your information is incorrect. Fontana had the largest crowd in the last 5 years and final ratings were up not down. Bristol is the only race with lower attendance or ratings from the previous year.

  12. Richard Allen Says:
    April 6th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    The column does not say attendance in California was down. It says there were vast numbers of empty seats. Entire sections were covered by banners to make the track look as if it were closer to full. Even with the banners there were scores of vacant seats.

    Because the California race was moved to a different place on the schedule the ratings were down against that new slot in the schedule. They may have been up against last year’s California race but the event was held at a different point on the schedule. Had California run in the second week of the season its ratings would have been higher in its old slot as well because of the Trevor effect.