By admin | February 19, 2008
Could there be boobirds in Juniorâ€™s future?
By Richard Allen
Dale Earnhardt, Jr wasted little time in showing that Rick Hendrick was justified in making the effort to bring the high profile driver into his camp. Junior claimed the 30th Bud Shootout in his first attempt behind the wheel of a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. As intriguing as his win was, one thing that really got my attention was a comment made after the race. When being interviewed after his second place finish Tony Stewart remarked that, â€œItâ€™s hard to beat Dale Jr. Heâ€™s one of the best restrictor plate racers ever. Iâ€™m not so sure he isnâ€™t better than his dad.â€Wow! Better than a seven time champion and the man who was often regarded as the master of restrictor plate racing. That was an interesting comment for sure.As I thought about it the question that came to mind was, how will the old time Dale Sr. fans feel about that? Sure, it was only one remark made by one driver at the end of a race. However, the likelihood is that Junior is going to experience more success during this season than he has in quite some time, success he was unable to achieve with his fatherâ€™s company.
If remarks like the one made by Stewart become more prevalent from members of the media, other drivers or younger fans might there be an unintended backlash? Could fans of â€œThe Intimidatorâ€ come to resent the comparisons between the two generations of Earnhardts?
Up until now many fans have regarded Junior as a nice guy and a good racer but in reality little threat to challenge his fatherâ€™s greatness. Now, he is with a team that will almost certainly afford him the opportunity to win races and compete for championships. And worst of all to more seasoned Earnhardt fans, that team is the one of dreaded enemies Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon.
Perhaps nothing will come of these type of inevitable comparisons, but I have to wonder. Time will tell. If by November Junior has won numerous races and is challenging for his first title, will those comparisons strike a discord among some? Donâ€™t be surprised if there arenâ€™t a few boos sprinkled in among the roars whenever Juniorâ€™s name is called.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association.His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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