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What if Junior never races again?

By admin | October 18, 2012

By Richard Allen

According to reports, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will miss this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Kansas and then will return to action the following week in Martinsville. This after the popular driver has already missed one race this past weekend in Charlotte due to concussions caused by wrecks in Kansas and Talladega.

As of now, there is no reason to believe anything other than the report that Junior will soon return to the track. However, that has not stopped a number of people from speculating that something otherwise will happen. In particular, a well known television analyst asserted his belief that there is at least the possibility that Junior’s time away could become longer, if not permanent.

ESPN’s Brad Daugherty said during his network’s pre-race show on Saturday night in Charlotte that, “I would not be surprised if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. does not race again.”

Daugherty did not disclose that he had any inside information to lead him to this speculation. However, fellow analyst Ray Evernham did, at least to some degree, support the former basketball star’s conjecture when he revealed that it was concussions that ended his own driving career before he became one of the sport’s most successful crew chiefs.

What if Daugherty statement that he would “not be surprised” if Junior does not race again were to come to fruition? As we have all seen from other professional sports, closed head injuries can indeed be career ending. Certainly, the hard hits incurred while driving race cars would equate to those experienced in football or boxing.

Junior’s sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, wrote in a blog post on that all indications are that the driver will indeed return to the track soon. “If all goes according to plan, and he continues to improve to 100%, he will test a car early next week to be cleared for Martinsville,” she wrote. But there is a degree of uncertainty in that statement.

First and foremost, Earnhardt’s health has to be the top priority. If he is deemed not fit to continue or if doctors were to determine that another hit such as those he has already endured could cause further damage, he should step away. But keep in mind that “if” is the key word in the previous sentence.

This perhaps takes on added significance, or at least an added sense of caution, when it is considered that Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died as a result of a severe head injury suffered on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

But what would be the impact on the sport and its fans if this much liked son of the seven time champion were to be removed from NASCAR?

Take a quick look at the marketing that centers around this one driver. Even though he has won only two races since 2008, Junior remains a top seller of virtually all forms of merchandise. T-shirts, hats, banners, posters and whatever else that carries the NASCAR logo on it moves best when it has the Earnhardt name or the number 88 emblazoned on it.

And more, virtually every ad campaign run by NASCAR and its tracks has Junior as the(or one of) centerpiece. That has been especially true after the driver’s revival over the past two seasons in which he has won a race and qualified for the Chase for the Championship.

Quite simply, if Junior were to stop racing, NASCAR would be in somewhat of a pickle. Much of their focus in terms of marketing and strategy would have to be changed. Vendors and other sales people would be affected by loses in sales. Overall, the sport’s economy, at least in the short term, would be hurt.

Personally, I have never been a huge fan of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. but I hope that Brad Daugherty’s conjecture does not come to be. He has so many fans and so many people who depend on him for their livelihoods that a sudden departure from the sport would impact NASCAR in a negative way.

However, if it is best for Earnhardt to step, he should step away.

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20 Responses to “What if Junior never races again?”

  1. ra Says:
    October 18th, 2012 at 10:22 am

    NASCAR moves on drives have come and gone and even returned.their are other drivers to Take over the pload.thay will Nascar will survive.

  2. Richard Allen Says:
    October 18th, 2012 at 12:59 pm


    I certainly see your point that drivers come and go and NASCAR remains. But, in the past when drivers like Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Allison, Earnhardt, etc.. were in the sport, it was much less personality driven than it is today.

    Since the 2001 TV contracts this sport has become much more about the individuals than the racing.

  3. Offkilter Says:
    October 18th, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Brad Daugherty, the same guy that gives shout outs to a driver” really moving up through the field” while the driver is actually losing spots. Not sure i’d put much stock into that talking head’s speculation.

  4. Chip Says:
    October 18th, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Don’t worry ,if Jr retires. Danica will be the next superstar in Nascar.

  5. Chip Says:
    October 18th, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    After all she looks great in a bikini……Drving talent means nothing anymore.

  6. Dave in Ohio Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Junior could walk away from racing and endorsements tomorrow and retire a very wealthy man for the rest of his life. And for the last several years he seems to have been more just going through the motions without his heart in it. Maybe this is just the excuse he needs to step away from driving. Even then he would have any job in the industry for the asking, name the paycheck. So really no big deal to him. And yes, Na$car’s one pony marketing strategy would take a hit. Their fault for having tunnel vision on one driver as the savior of the sport.

  7. Tony Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 2:46 am

    kilter, yep also the same daugherty that admires the brilliant driving of cup drivers in superior equipment passing cars in the busch series. I love it when kyle or sliced or carl had to start in the back of the field due to missing qualifying, by lap 3 they had “passed” oh 15 or 20 cars, remarkable, but the brain surgeon fails to tell us most of those are already in the garage. The man is a genius

  8. Tony Geinzer Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 3:07 am

    I’d be leery of a Juniorless NASCAR because, Rich , who are we expecting to keep the torch lit until the fan base is solidified again? I feel that fake popularity drives me mad and we don’t promote Justin Allgaier fast enough and I want more Rookies and we can’t let Rowdy trot aimlessly through the Sport again! This can’t and won’t be no Ernie Irvan because the difference,Rich, was Irvan was the first real strong California or West Coast Star that didn’t come through Kentucky or Nashville and Junior has the fans that otherwise would have left if there was no Junior because Vickers grew up in Charlotte, too, but, he’s more reclusive and having to go to Spa instead of Talladega’s not a good career choice.

  9. Bill B Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 6:53 am

    While anything is possible, it sounds to me like they just wanted to stir the pot up. I mean, they have to talk about something interesting or controversial to get people to watch the lameass pre-race show.

  10. Josie Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Well I know I’m in the minority…but other then idle curiosity watching how Smith progressed through the field at Charlotte..I really didn’t focus on the 88 car…never really have. I’ll be even more bores the heck out of me..and has become quite irritating that Junior is focused on so much in NASCAR … For no other reason then his last name. (Let’s face it he’s not one of the top drivers in the field…average I suppose.). Now that being said I realize, for different reasons, alot of fans watch races to watch Junior..and I respect that…so, if he is healthy I do hope he gets back on the track. I would hope NASCAR takes this “no Earnhardt in the field” as an opportunity to promote other upcoming drivers who will be racing long after Junior retires…cause I don’t see another Earnhardt in line to step into the 88 car.

  11. Jeff Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 7:18 am

    I believe that if Dale Earnhardt Jr never races again the world as we know it will stop spinning, the sun will never rise, dogs and cats will take over the earth and……

    Look, the sport does not revolve around Dale Earnhardt Jr, He will miss two races and the sport continued and was just fine.

    There will come a time when the likes of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart will call it a career and just like with Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers the sport continued.

    Relax people.

  12. Ron Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Not to worry. These drivers love money more than their health, so he will be back, and fast too. Got to make those trips to the bank!

  13. Russ Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 9:41 am

    The PR machine will just gin up the next chosen one, and the beat will go on. But for all of Jr.s ability to sell merchandise, is he bringing in new fans? I think the numbers answer that, so it may not be the loss we think it is.

  14. the old guy Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Wouldn’t hurt my feelings if Jr. never raced again. I’m of the opinion that just as many people have left NASCAR as have come to it because of Jr.

    Without Jr., the fans might actually find out that there are 42 other drivers on the track each Sunday who are as talented, if no more talented, than Jr. ever was or ever will be.

  15. Kevin Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I think if Dale Jr were to step away from the sport as a driver, he wouldn’t step away from the sport all together. He loves the sport too much. I think Jr would remain involved in the sport and I believe that Jr’s fans would become fans of Jr’s drivers should he remain in the sport in an ownership capacity.
    The sport has lost many greats over the years, either to death, injury or retirement. The sport has survived them all and continued to thrive. The Yarbouroughs, Roberts, Johnsons and Pettys get replaced by the Waltrips, Earnhardts, Labontes, Elliots get replaced with the Gordons, Stewarts, Johnsons, Kenseths and Harvicks who get replaced by the Keselowksis, Buschs, Loganos, Stenhouses & Dillons.
    If Earnhardt stops driving for any reason - health or otherwise, he doesn’t need an excuse & the sport will continue.
    Personally I hope he comes back, and I hope he continues to drive for another 20 years. But if he doesn’t, I’ll understand. And I’ll watch and root for Truex, Keselowski, Patrick or Whitt - or whatever other driver Dale has infuenced and helped through the sport.

  16. holdin5aces Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 10:17 am

    NASCAR has passed Jr. by. He is an old school driver who hasn’t been able to adapt to the new style of racing or cars. His name and short lived time as a winner created an aura that combined with his father’s death seems to have a life of its own n. Most guys with his recent record are the Kvapil’s of this world. He has a ton of money and the desire to want to be the driver folks think he is. Not the one he is. I could see him hanging it up.

  17. Rusty Frame Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Jr.’s only responsibility is to himself, not NASCAR’s popularity or lack of it, not to vendors or any others who prey on his name and image. If he is hurt to the point that dorctors say it is best for his health, indeed for his life, to step away from racing, that should be his only concern.
    The sport will go on, people will find a new name to cheer on and soon all will return to normal. People need to relax and wait to see what the future brings. Drivers come and go.

  18. Earner Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    brad doughhead also said that Jeffy was no way making the “Chase”….Even argued with others about it. Jr quits he quits life go’s on. I Don’t think you’d see JR racing for a paycheck tho & for all those attacking the guy (as usual) he’s known as a pretty high quality person & doe’s something for a living that only a few can or get to do…..Ya gotta have a certain level of skill to do it at all…Who knows maybe Smith can win in the car..Best to all (even you cranky ones)

  19. jo-jr Says:
    October 19th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Boy,all you guys , are all down on jr!! If you don’t care for him, as a driver, why do you read ,everything that is written about him? One of the reasons, he has so many fans, is because, he is a true, southern gentleman! he is, as he appears to be! We, his true fans, will always , be with or loose!

  20. Tyler West Says:
    October 21st, 2012 at 9:56 am

    It would be awesome!! I’m sick of everything revolving around him when he’s never been the guy to beat for a race or the championship. Nascar acts like he is vital to the survival of the sport when in truth he is actually killing their credibility.