Click on the logo below for the most complete Dirt Late Model coverage anywhere

For the Best RV Sales and Service


Rich's Articles & Blogs


« Chasing points hurting individual races | Main | This weekend NASCAR will test the limits of Obama’s statement »

Is the Junior Nation becoming outnumbered or are they AWOL?

By admin | August 26, 2009

By Richard Allen

Not too long ago I had a person involved in the NASCAR souvenir business send me an e-mail in which he said that he was selling more Tony Stewart items than items for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He also said that Kyle Busch articles were holding their own against Junior’s stuff.

This past Saturday’s Sharpie 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway was the first NASCAR race since March in which I had sat in the grandstands. So, I decided to pay particular attention to the hats, T-shirts and other items being worn and sold.

My friends and I have a spot in the shade of the front stretch grandstand where we sit and do a little ‘people watching’ for an hour or two before going inside the track. One of the first things each of us noticed was that we were not so completely overwhelmed by those wearing Junior related items as has been the case in previous years.

Just for the sake of comparison, a few years ago I attended a race in Atlanta and the sea of Budweiser red(he was still driving the #8 car) was so overwhelming that I asked a friend of mine if there were fans of any other driver in attendance. There are times at Bristol and various other tracks in which I have wondered the same thing.

This time, I did not feel as though I was swimming in a tide of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. paraphernalia. Granted, there were plenty of Junior fans, just not in their usual overwhelming numbers.

When I toured through the souvenir trucks I believe what the e-mailer told me was true. Tony Stewart’s truck had potential buyers stacked four and five deep. Kyle Busch’s truck had a nice sized crowd around it as well. Junior’s truck also had nice crowds as usual, but not as big as at Stewart’s.

Of course, there could be a simple explanation. Stewart has traded his Home Depot orange for Office Depot red. It could be that his fans are having to renew their stockpile of goods. Junior swapped rides last year and perhaps his fans have already updated their closets so there is no need for more items.

However, that does not account for the numbers of people decked out in Stewart grab compared to those in the #88 apparel. There seemed to be at least as many Stewart fans as Earnhardt fans.

Have the Junior fans grown tired of their driver’s lack of success and switched their allegiance? If this is the case then it would prove that the ‘Junior Nation’ are more than just the fans of a single driver but are fans of the sport in general. They just moved over to a driver experiencing more success.

Have the Junior fans grown tired of their driver’s lack of success and found something else to do? This could be a possible explanation for the lowered attendance and television ratings. If this is the case, it is a bad sign for NASCAR. It would mean there were a large number of people who were fans of one personality rather than the sport as a whole and now that the personality isn’t producing they have left and won’t be back.

Perhaps it was just an anomaly. Maybe there are as many Junior fans as there have always been and I was simply sitting in the wrong place. As I said, there were plenty of the ‘Junior Nation’ about. It just did not seem to me that they were in the overwhelming masses they have always been.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

13 Responses to “Is the Junior Nation becoming outnumbered or are they AWOL?”

  1. Marty Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 6:52 am

    I personally decided to not attend the race. I went fishing….. and I wore my Dale Jr Tee Shirt. I wiped my fishy hands on a Kyle Busch Hand Towel.

  2. Gina Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 7:28 am

    I’ve heard a lot of fans that used to be Jr fans say that they’ve switched to Stewart and there are some Jr fans that I’ve talked to who have just quit following NASCAR at all, so I think you have a mix of things happening. For a while, my favorite driver had shirts that were made in “red”, too, but I had stopped buying them OR wearing them to the track since I didn’t want to be lumped in with the Red BUD crowd.

    NASCAR tied their fortunes to one specific driver in Jr - practically making the man a religious symbol - bad mistake, I know that NASCAR talks a lot about parity, but the thing that makes people stay interested is competition and fun, not all of this points racing stuff or the fake Chase that in 10 races determines a champion.

  3. Larry Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    We’re still here, the economy has hit us too you know. I am as committed to Jr as ever, but when it comes to taking care of the family or buying a Jr T shirt, guess who wins. As far as the Tony sales, well ya, his stuff is all new, give it until next season for the sales to even out. Not to say that Tony doesn’t have a huge fan base because he does, I am a Jr fan, but even I can get some satisfaction out of Tony winning a race. He’s still the closest person we have out there that evokes memories of the great Dale Sr. ( and no it’s not shrub regardless of what BS has been printed to the contrary)

  4. johhnyo Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Well, it would be a cold day in hell when I buy anything with the little idiot on it, stewart would be fine, but after Jr. left the Red 8 I stopped buying anything Nascar, I sold all my Jr. stuff while I could with the 8. Dont even watch Nascar now, was a fan for 45 years. It wasnt only Jr. leaving DEI, but that hurt it has to do with Nascar itself, lucky dog, chase where in hell did this crap come from, I talked with friend Monday and he said Nascar has finally done it and I said what and he said they have even made Bristol boring, now that is bad.

  5. JT Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Jr’s problem is too many ‘8’s…
    in other words, he is OVER-8-ED

    & yes Larry, the Shrub is closest thing we got to Sr…

  6. Sandy Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Jr Nation is alive and well, but they are no longer as visible since the move to HMS simply because there is no longer a single color associated with most of the gear. When he drove for DEI/Bud 99% of the gear was red, now we’re wearing Green, Blue, White and Camo. If you look in the stands you no longer see the ’sea of red’ but we’re still there….just listen to us when he takes the lead - you couldn’t even hear the ESPN announcers in Michigan! As far as the current sales trend, it’s make sense that folks are buying more Tony gear right now, his fans are still trying to update - just like Jr Nation did last year and Truex fans will be doing next year. Plus he’s the points leader (which he certainly deserves!) so he’s picking up a lot of sales from the casual fans that will always jump on the leader’s bandwagon.

  7. Ginger Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    We’re still here. Just not at the track so much any more. When Nascar went fulltime to the COT, a lot of us just started watching at home since the races were boring.

    As for souvenir sales, remember we can buy from HMS. And our favorite place to buy from is Jr’s store. You need to get better information before you count us out. If we all showed up at the track, the media wouldn’t have as much to talk about.

  8. JLC Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    We’re alive and well. Jr Nation will live on for a very long time.

  9. Conor Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I left Jr. when he went to HMS, as I am not a fan of Rick, nor any of his drivers. I was fan of Tonys when in open wheel, thru Busch and into Cup, except his one year with that foreign auto co. I tossed all of my Jr. stuff before the race season began last year!

  10. Overra88ted Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Jr. nation got hit between the eyes again this year by reality. Their OVER-HYPED, OVER-RATED, OVER-PAID, AVERAGE AT BEST? 20th someplace driver hasn’t been able to cut it again. Not many excuses left for the driver who “could win if he had better equipment”. Well he does, and he still can’t! With 5 laps to go on the last restart at Bristol sat. nite, JR. re-started in 3rd place, sniffing the lead. Using his God given AVERAGE AT BEST? talent, JR. drove it hard and charged his way to a 9th place finish.

  11. Davey Boy Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Jr Nation will not survive much longer if the boy can’t figure out how to win. Stop blaming everyone and taking responsibility for is own lack of talent.

  12. Antony Sdao Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I guess I have to speak up ………..have been a Dale fan since he was tearing up the Bush tracks, was a Sr. fan from age 12 (84) all the way. Finacially I think some of us are in a different place as well as It was easy to get into Delco, GM, Goodwrench, Wrangler etc……. I didnt have a lot of Bud stuff (cant wear that to Church)…I have 1-88 shirt, 1-88 hat…… I guess us “older 30 somethings” are still getting used to the multiple sponsors as well. I did pickup Harvick when Dale died, but I did not “grab” Tony like many did (family included). I am a Dale Jr. fan period………… winning or not. Dont get me wrong I am TICKED hes not doing like he was. and as for the races………. I havent been to one in two years (tough times overall). but YES……… CHASE (not real racing for points), and TOYOTA (Not a real racecar period), and 3 and 4 channels to keep up with all make it more to put up with!!!! I ran dirt……….if with 10 races to go they came to me and started me over ………… I think I would go to another track!!! thats not racing thats gambling “pull the lever and see what happens????” come on. If Bush makes it on then great for him but to go from 12th to FIRST……….. yeah that makes sense.
    at 37 I feel way old school already …………… GO GM (WHATS LEFT OF IT), GO Junior!!! GO AMERICA.

  13. BigTnBigDJr4ever Says:
    August 28th, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Although I couldn’t make it to Bristol from Dallas, I was sporting my 88 around my big screen.

    Every things big in Texas, even Jr. Nation.

    Junior 4 ever!!!!!!!!!