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?
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