By admin | February 29, 2012
By Richard Allen
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has throngs of fans, and throughout his career other drivers have found themselves on the receiving end of the ire of those fans when deemed necessary by the followers of the third generation competitor. Kyle Busch, in particular, has often served as the target of the so called â€˜Junior Nationâ€™ when he has run afoul of the sportâ€™s most popular driver.
Now, however, there could be a new villain in the eyes of Juniorâ€™s faithful. As the laps wound down during Monday nightâ€™s running of the Daytona 500, the driver of the number 88 Chevrolet found himself in 3rd place locked onto the rear bumper of Greg Biffleâ€™s Ford. The trouble for Junior was that just ahead of those two drivers was Biffleâ€™s Roush Fenway Racing teammate and fellow Ford driver Matt Kenseth.
Earnhardt has not won a points paying Sprint Cup race since 2008 so the multitudes were no doubt anxious to see their man back in victory lane. However, the opportunity to make a race winning move never really materialized as Biffle remained tucked in line behind his teammate as the cars approached the checkered flag.
Ultimately, Junior was able to get around Biffle for 2nd but Kenseth held on for the most prized victory in stock car racing.
Almost immediately after the raceâ€™s conclusion, the social networking sites lit up with criticism of Biffle for not attempting to make a move around Kenseth, and much of that criticism was coming from fans of Earnhardt. It was believed by some that Biffleâ€™s seeming lack of effort cost their favorite a chance to win the race as the top-3 had developed a bit of a cushion over the rest of the field which provided the 88 car with no other drafting options.
For his part, Junior understood Biffleâ€™s predicament. â€œIâ€™m pretty sure that if I know Greg, if he had an opportunity to get around Matt and had a chance to win the Daytona 500, he would have took it immediately,â€ the Hendrick Motorsports driver said.Â â€œHeâ€™s trying to do what he could do.Â Â If I were him, I canâ€™t imagine what his game plan was in his head, but if I were him, I would have tried to let me push him by and then pull down in front of Matt, and force Matt to be my pusher and then leave the 88 for the dogs.â€
However, there remain a number of folks who are convinced that Biffle did not really give his best effort on the last lap of the sportâ€™s biggest race. â€œI think Greg Biffle is a coward for not pulling out and trying to pass his teammate,â€ declared one reader who commented on another post from this website. â€œYou do not get many good shots at a win like he did and to just follow him like that was inexcusable for a driver to do!â€
I have a feeling this person comments on behalf of many others.
Not surprisingly, Biffle saw things differently. â€œNot really sure why people think I wouldn’t pass Matt Kenseth for the win but I never lifted or touched the brakes for the last 2 laps!!â€ he posted on Twitter the day after the race.
Of course, there is at least some reason to believe team orders might have been in place among the RFR drivers late in the event. That team was the subject of much speculation and criticism after the October race in Talladega last year when Jack Roush had supposedly delivered the edict that those drivers who were using Roush Yates Engines were to assist each other in the tandem drafts first and foremost.
The bottom line would seem to be in this case that the most popular driver in the sport of NASCAR racing was in a position to win the most important race on the schedule but he, like any other driver, could not win it without help. And it was never likely that the two teammates in front of him were going to jeopardize their organizationâ€™s shot at victory.
For that reason, it could well be that Greg Biffle will not receive the warmest of receptions in many upcoming Sprint Cup driver introductions.
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