Posts tagged “dale earnhardt jr”

All-Star Race 2008

May 18, 2008   12:11 pm

I don’t think I’ve done a NASCAR post yet this season, and last night’s All-Star Race gives me a perfect opportunity.

Before the big race, there was a 40-lap, 2-segment All-Star Challenge, where the top two finishers get to race their way into the big race. For the most part, it was a clean race, although pole-sitter Elliott Sadler got taken out by eventual race winner A. J. Allmendinger, who won his first-ever Cup series race (albeit a non-point event). Open-wheel veteran Sam Hornish, Jr. came in second, and showed a lot of progress since the first of the year. After the race, it was revealed that Kasey Kahne, who had finished 5th in the challenge race, had received the fan vote-in position for the big show.

The 100-lap, 4-segment All-Star Race was caution-free (the ones they throw at the end of each segment don’t count), and was one of the fastest ones I had seen. Each segment was dominated by different drivers. Segment 1 was led (in its entirety) by [Kyle Busch][], currently the driver at the top of the standings. Halfway through segment 2, his engine dropped a cylinder, and Carl Edwards blew everyone away for the rest of that segment. During the third segment, Carl’s car went away, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. led part of the segment until Greg Biffle caught and passed him. In the final segment, it was Kasey Kahne who took the lead a few laps in, and held off Greg Biffle to become the first-ever fan vote to win the $1M prize.

Kyle Busch has been blowing away the competition in all three major series this year, but a couple of weeks ago, he and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were racing very hard and got into each other. “Junior Nation” seems to feel that Busch wrecked Junior on purpose; an unbiased viewing of the replay tapes shows otherwise. However, now Busch gets booed whenever he’s announced, or even when he wins a race, as he did last week. But, I thought one of the poorest examples of sportmanship was the cheering of the crowd as Busch’s disabled car was being pushed from pit road to the garage. Maybe it’s just my upbringing, but cheering at other’s misfortune just seems petty. Carl Edwards had it right - I can’t find a quote, but it was something like “Man, I hate that he lost his engine. I wanted to beat him straight-up on the racetrack.”

We have Junior fans in our house - he’s #1 on my middle son’s list, and he’s pretty high on mine as well. This hearkens back to last year, when Jeff Gordon was getting pelted with things for passing (and saluting) Dale Earnhardt, Sr.'s career win total. This is the sort of poor sportsmanship that reflects badly on NASCAR as a sport, and poorly on the South as a region of the country.

In the words of Ron Burgundy, “Stay classy, Junior Nation…”

Hendrick Motorsports Is on a Roll

June 13, 2007   12:34 pm

Rick Hendrick and his racing team, Hendrick Motorsports, have been having a phenomenal year. Jimmie Johnson, driving the #48 Lowe’s car, won the championship last year. This year, out of 14 races, they have won 10, with all four drivers having at least one win. This season has been almost magical for them; Rick has said that it’s not so much that they’re doing things to make it happen, they’re just not making mistakes, which puts them in the position to capitalize when others make mistakes. (Of course, that’s part of it, but there is an awful lot that goes into “not making mistakes.”)

But it seems that everyone in that organization is top-notch. Take Sunday’s race at Pocono as an example. After a 3±hour rain delay, the race gets going. Sixty-five or so laps into the race, a caution flag comes out. Was it Steve Letarte, the crew chief who started as a janitor at HMS, or an engineer who made the call? No - Jeff Gordon’s spotter made a suggestion, followed by the team, that they not pit. Casey Mears, Gordon’s teammate, also followed his strategy. By not pitting then, they needed to pit around the mid-80’s for fuel.

In NASCAR, if a race goes over halfway (100 laps in Sunday’s race), and has to be called for rain or darkness, the race is considered official. By pitting on lap 84, as they did, they had enough fuel to get them to lap 116. They were way back in the pack at that point. However, as the laps came up to 30 from the previous round of pit stops, cars started heading to pit road for fuel. When these cycled through, Gordon and Mears were running first and second. The rain came, and when the race was red-flagged at lap 106, Gordon was still first, though Mears had dropped to fourth. The race never started back, and Gordon got his fourth win of the season.

Then, today, who is going to join the team but Dale Earnhardt, Jr.! Rick Hendrick actually signed him to a contract on a napkin when he was 14 years old. Now, he had a real contract with NASCAR’s most popular driver.

Hendrick Motorsports is having a run like the Yankees had a few years back. It’s a good day to be a Hendrick fan. For the Hendrick haters, not so much.