By admin | March 8, 2009
By Richard Allen
Between practice sessions on Saturday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway Dale Earnhardt, Jr. told his feelings about the track surface, tires and the Car of Tomorrow.
This column is only to a degree about track surfaces, tires and the CoT. The real point to this column is that not matter what Junior says about anything, it is news. Then, after his remarks are published the real fun begins as his fans and his haters debate what was just said.
Whether non Junior fans like it or not, he is one of the most important voices in NASCAR. This is true not because he wins so often or has claimed so many championships, but rather, because he is so immensely popular. Winning or not, the media is going to go to Junior to see what he thinks and because he has so many fans NASCAR will also have to listen.
“It’s slick,” Junior said. “It’s an old race track. It’s like Rockingham used to be years ago. I don’t mind it. It’s fine.”
Typically, older track surfaces make for better racing. Just after tracks have been repaved there is usually so much grip that every car will stick right to the bottom of the track. The bottom groove is the short way, and thus the fast way, around when there is plenty of grip.
Fans who enjoy good racing should be glad to hear Earnhardt or any other driver say they like the tracks with rough surfaces.
Earnhardt went on to add that the root of the problem in the lack of grip in Atlanta was not the track surface or even necessarily the tires. The real problem according to Junior is the Car of Tomorrow. When asked if the CoT was playing a role in the troubles many drivers were complaining about he said, “100 percent. This is … this is a hell of an excuse for a race car. It’s hard to drive. It makes everybody’s job harder. Even Goodyear’s.”
There are things to like about the CoT and things to not like about it. Personally, I like the fact that the car is hard to drive and causes these highly paid drivers to complain. So, I was glad to hear Junior say he didn’t mind the rough surfaces but I’m going to have to chalk this statement about the car up to whining.
Junior has only won one race in the new car, so his complaints likely have a basis in his lack of success.
Many drivers could be put on the list of whiners in regard to the CoT. But, not every driver is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Had any of 40 other drivers in the garage made the same statement Junior made no one would have bothered to write it down. Only Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and possibly Jimmie Johnson get anywhere near the same amount of attention from the media as Junior.
The strange thing about whenever Junior makes any statement is that it becomes news whenever Junior makes any statement. Many e-mails and comments I get criticize the media for publicizing everything he says. However, the pure and simple truth is that a person who is that popular gets publicity because it is what people what to see and hear.
Even those who are critical of the media for making known whatever Junior says still go ahead and read or listen to whatever Junior says.
Whether he be commenting on the CoT, tires, track surfaces or any other issue in racing it is going to make headlines. Then, the debate will be on in the comments sections and message boards as to whether or not Junior is a legitimate voice in NASCAR or he is just a whiner.
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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