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Junior/Johnson ties come unraveled late in Daytona race

By admin | July 4, 2011

By Richard Allen


During the Sprint Cup race earlier this season in Talladega, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson worked well together throughout much of the day in a tandem that eventually resulted in a victory for Johnson. On Saturday night in Daytona during the Coke Zero 400 it appeared for much of the race that the pairing was working toward a similar result.

The duo communicated well together as they talked on their team radios and plotted their way among and around the competition. At one point an the two exchanged, “We can cruise half throttle if you want,” Johnson said. “I’m running half throttle and we’re running over ‘em,” Junior called back.

Another time when the lead car in the tandem was upset just a bit by the close quarter drafting the talk was, “It got a little loooose!” declared Junior in a playful tone. “Yeah, I saw that. I was on your right rear. I don’t know what happened there,” answered Johnson.

And in the middle portion of the race Johnson warned Junior that, “We’re surrounded by a bunch of guys who don’t do this all that often. We need to get the (expletive deleted) out of here.”

When it came to the so called ‘go time’, Johnson told Junior, “Let’s go win this damn race, buddy.”

But not long thereafter the tone changed dramatically. As the laps wound down, a late caution came out. At that point, Johnson was told to pit by crew chief Chad Knaus. This move had obviously been made without consultation with #88 pit boss Steve Letarte.

Junior asked Letarte what he was supposed to do now that he was separated from his drafting partner. “We’ve got to figure something out,” said Letarte in reference to Johnson’s unannounced move. “I don’t agree with that.”

Junior shot back, “I’m just gonna mash the gas and go,” in a frustrated tone. “Don’t tell me to wait on no damn body with two laps to go.”

After the race Johnson answered back to angry Junior fans on Twitter that he pitted his car when told to and that it was up to the crew chiefs to work together on such matters. Clearly, in this case they did not. Rather than a repeat win for the Junior/Johnson combination, there was only frustration and the unraveling of previous ties.

Will there be enough trust between the two to work together again in Talladega?

Topics: Articles |

20 Responses to “Junior/Johnson ties come unraveled late in Daytona race”

  1. Nascarxtm Says:
    July 4th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I don’t think Jr and JJ have a problem. The problem seems to be with Chad.

  2. JR Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Let’s review: The last time Junior won a restrictor plate cup race was at the 2nd Talladega race in 2004. That folks, was almost seven (7) years ago. May we conclude that restrictor plate racing is no longer his strong suite. Suddenly, it’s the 48 teams fault he didn’t win this weekend. Perhaps Junior and his Nation can prepare a list of who was at fault for his not winning any of the other 25 restrictor plate races he didn’t win since 2004. Why in the world would anybody think he would be a favorite to win ANY race these days. The fact that his image appears on every other commercial during race broadcasts is evidently enough to convince his loyal following that he is the greatest. This, in itself, is a revealing look inside the intelligence level of the fan. When Danica arrives full time and only the images of her and Junior appear in all the race commercials, the fans heads might explode trying to decide who is the greater.

  3. Tyler West Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Junior is the biggest baby out there! People need to face the fact that he sucks!! He’s only relevant because of his name. Now he is mad because he does not like drafting the way it is. Well too bad!! Sometimes you are not going to have great days, you deal with it and go on. Heck he could totally suck and people will still crown him the greatest. Sponsors are not leaving him although they should. Johnson is a real winner, Knause is one of the best crew chiefs ever. Junior needs to get his act together and man up! Or better yet just go away and take Danica with you!! Away from the commercials both are duds.

  4. Jim Baker Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Being a Matt Kenseth fan, usually I wish bad on Junior. But this time he just got hung out to dry and I am still waiting for an explanation for why Chad pulled Jimmie of the track without Letarte’s agreement to do the same. Was it really just a failure to communicate? If so, it was the second major blunder for the Chad this year and Junior had a right to be hot about it. If Letarte screwed up, Junior’s year will be just about over now. If Jimmie whined to Chad about Junior, then Hendrick Motorsports’ year is now in big trouble. Mark is obviously fading( no knock on him, he was one of the best drivers ever ), Junior has emotional problems( no knock on him, he has been trying to live up to his father’s inflated image for the last years), Jimmie’s confidence is suffering(no knock on him, his crew chief is showing signs that he is not infallible. Only Jeffy G is meeting his sponsor’s expectations(no knock on him, but his sponsor is his own charity)
    Look out, folks, now David Ragan will owe Kenseth a shot at a win at Talladega during the chase. This might just be Matty’s year!

  5. Nascarxtm Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Dear Tyler
    The only dud I see is you. Learn to spell Knaus before you post again.

    Dale Jr fans laugh at fools like you who think we only follow him because of his name. He had lots of fans when his dad was still alive. He now has many, many more than Sr ever had.

    For tools like you who hate Jr, keep up bitching. It keeps his name out front. We love it, dude.

  6. JR Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Dear Nascarxtm,
    I would like for you to respond by telling us why you are a Junior fan. I don’t “hate” Junior, I’m just confused as to why he is the face of NASCAR and it’s most “popular” driver. Perhaps your reply will help me to understand why.

  7. Marybeth Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I read that calling JJ into the pit was done without using the radio, so that Jr. & Steve would not hear it…?

  8. overra88ted Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Nascarxtm…..Your response to Tyler tells me everything I need to know about why you are a Jr. fan. “For TOOLS like you”, looks like your’re calling the kettle black.

  9. overra88ted Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Mary Beth … I’m actually glad you posted a delusional Jr. excuse this week. I was worried you had gone over the deep edge after Na$crap didn’t throw a caution a few races back and your “poor Jr.” wasn’t smart enough to save enough gas to win a race. When you didn’t post a delusiona Jr. excuse, I thought maybe you had left this world.

  10. overra88ted Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Mary Beth…. I read somewhere that JJ and Chad have won the Sprint Cup 5 years in a row, that half a decade. I also have read that “poor Dale Jr. has only won 1 race in the last 5 years, that’s half a decade. And BTW, “poor Dale Jr.” had to have Na$crap let him pass the pace car three, that’s 3 times so he could win that race. Just a fact.

  11. MaryInRichmond Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    JR, the main reason I’m a Dale Junior fan is that there is nothing fake about him. If you ask his opinion, he gives it to you whether it’s what you want to hear or not. He’s not afraid to speak his mind. I wasn’t even following NASCAR until late 2000, so in my case he didn’t “inherit” one of his father’s fans. I became a fan because of how he carried himself after his father’s death. And I’ll be a fan whether he wins or loses on the track. To me he is a winner in life because he remains true to who he is.

  12. Overra88ted Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Just another stupid Dale Jr. article by Racing with

  13. Deb Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Overra88ted……….why read articles on Jr?

  14. Jack Mack Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Screw Chad Knaus, he is out for one racer and does not give to craps about the 88. Chad has forgotten where he came from obviously, back in the days of racing in the Midwest. Everybody has to answer to someone and Chad is no different, just because the 48 has won 5 championships doesn’t give him the authority to change the race dynamics on a whim! Junior would do well to move along to Richard Childress Racing or with Stewart Haas Racing.

  15. JR Says:
    July 5th, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Mary in Richmond, good reasons to be a fan. As you can imagine, there are many drivers in the garage that are not “fake”, who are not afraid to speak their mind and are more than willing to express their opinions, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Most of them express themselves in public by refraining from using strings of cuss words and most of them refrain from over indulging in alcohol in private. Many are married with families so they don’t like to hang out on a bar stool with the “boys”. Many of them have lots of wins and several have Cup championships. Can I assume that you are also fans of these drivers as well? You are 100% correct in your statement that he is true to who he is. I just don’t think you are completly aware of who he is.

  16. Terri Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 3:48 am

    They were in 25th/26th position at the time they separated, I believe.

    If anyone thinks they were going to win from that position so far back, they’re the delusional ones.

    And as to the comment about Jr. having more fans than Dale did (he never used SR in his name), that’s delusional, too.

  17. Randy Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 6:16 am

    And the media wonders why NASCAR racing is in the shape its in. There are 16 posts before this one that answer the question.

  18. Haywood Jablome Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Jr. ran up to 7th before mcmurray ran into him only because jeff burton was his pusher and a poor pusher at that. all chod balding knaus cares about are his precious wins and championships as evidenced by the way these so-called teammates acted. now if johnson didn’t pit and was close enough to push jr. who know what could have happened. that 48 group can go screw themselves. both teams got rotten points because jimmie left his wingman.

  19. Kevin Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I think that if you take a look where the 48 finished, it was one place behind the 88. Doesn’t make too much of a difference if they didn’t pit or if the 88 pitted too, they still would have had a poor finish.

    I can’t speak for other fans of Dale Jr, but I will speak for myself. I was a fan of Dale. It was hard when Dale lost his life. A real tragedy. Then the very next week, to see Dale Jr hit the fence before the race had hardly started. Well I was heartbroken for him. I had already been a fan of Dale Jr. Watching him win his 2 Busch series championships, the All-Star race, Texas. It started out with an interest in him because of who his Daddy was, but as he began to enjoy some success early in his career I became a fan of Dale Jr. Having Dale pass away, it was only natural to cheer for his son, whom I watched have his early success. Over the years, as Dale Jr has matured we’ve come to know him for exactly who he is. He doesn’t try to hide it, he doesn’t have a made up image for the cameras and he doesn’t want all the fame that he has. He just wants to race cars. Hopefully win some races and a championship. He didn’t ask for the situation that he is in. But he didn’t run from it either. It would have been easy for him to walk away from the sport forever, wrecking the way he did the week after his Daddy died. But he didn’t. He may not have asked for the role he has been given, but he has accepted it. He is trying to make the most of it. He wants to be successful at it. I can relate to that. So, I am a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. It started because of who his Daddy is. It has continued because of the man the boy became. If he never wins another race, it won’t matter to me. I’ll still get up on Sunday morning. Put on my #88 Jersey & Cap. Head out to the track and cheer for Dale Jr.

    Even with this explaination JR, you may not understand it. Thats ok. I don’t know who you cheer for or why, nor do I really care. I guess that is what I don’t understand the most. Why do you care why someone cheers for a driver that you don’t care for? Why is it Dale Jr fans in particular that you ridicule? Why not Trevor Bayne’s fans, or Joey Logano’s fans? Afterall, what have they accomplished in the sport that Dale Jr hasn’t? I just wish you could explain to me, why it matters so much to you?

    As for your comment: “You are 100% correct in your statement that he is true to who he is. I just don’t think you are completly aware of who he is.”

    I’m not sure I saw you when you were hanging out with us @ Jr’s, tipping back some beer last night, cussing at each other. Were you the one in the corner, the one that didn’t say anything? Maybe you weren’t there at all, you were hanging out with your favourite driver were you? Getting to know who he really is?

  20. JR Says:
    July 6th, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Kevin, thanks for your comments. For almost 20 years, I traveled the same circles that Junior has. I’m very familiar with who he is. My concern is for the sport of auto racing and would like to see more knowledgeable fans be involved.