Tag Archives: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Retires, This too Shall Pass

This week Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that this year will be his last year driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. NASCARs most popular driver would no longer be driving next year.

I just wanted the opportunity to go out on my own terms.”, said Earnhardt.

Social Media and Sirius/XM NASCAR lit up with fans saying that NASCAR is over; it will never survive. Some claim that as much as 65% of all fans are Dale Jr. fans and most will not continue watching because he will not be there. We have been there before.

When Dale Earnhardt died, similar claims were made by fans. Afterword’s, I remember going to races and seeing Dale Earnhardt fans wearing the No. 3 Goodwrench gear at the track or in the campgrounds. I really enjoyed hearing the stories of what they saw him do on the track, how he put the bumper to someone. I enjoyed hearing how they met him one time, got to shake his hand, and get his autograph.

When the race was over these same fans would say; wow did you see what Harvick did. (Kevin Harvick was the driver of the No. 3 now renumbered 29 Goodwrench Chevy.)  Regardless, NASCAR went on. The years after were some of the most popular years of the sport.

Photo Credit: 348791 Jamie Squire/ALLSPORT
Photo Credit: 348791 Jamie Squire/ALLSPORT

I am certain that next year there will still be many members of “Junior Nation” in the campground and in the stands. They will also be recalling to all who will listen what Dale Earnhardt Jr. did on the track. They will also tell all who ask and some who don’t about when they got to meet him. I am certain that after the race they will say; did you see what Chase Elliott did in turn four? Kyle Larson was really tearing out the outside groove or “Insert new hot shoe driver here” in the 88 really took it to them this week.

One thing that’s made this career the incredible ride that it’s been is Junior Nation.” Earnhardt Jr. added, “The fan support that I received straight out of the gate was in large part because of my famous last name.  But throughout the ups and downs it occurred to me that the fans that stuck it out and the new ones that joined us, they were there because of the person I was and not who they wanted me to be.

If you are a member of “Junior Nation” you will still be one but you are in a position to broaden your experience. This is why we love NASCAR.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 348787 ISC Archives via Getty Images

Kyle Busch is the Tiger Woods of the NASCAR XFINITY Series

This week Brian Costa wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal titled “How Golf Got Out of the Woods”. It hit me like a brick. The gist of the article was that in 2006 Woods was so dominating and was the only draw to the sport. There were no other stars. Tiger Woods was the one and only draw. Golf has many stars in the tour that can win and compete against one another since Tiger no longer is the show. The NASCAR XFINITY Series is where the PGA Tour was in the mid 2000’s. Read the article here.

To be clear this story isn’t just about Kyle Busch. It’s about a second tier series whose stars or future stars are in the shadow of the Sprint Cup Series stars. This past race at Texas Motor Speedway the race winner was the reigning Sprint Cup Champion, Kyle Busch. Busch has won four of the six XFINITY races this season. Third place went to previous Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in fifth and had some air time.

Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson, though still a young driver, led the second highest of 38 laps. Austin Dillon was also in the race and finished eighth. The only bright spot is Eric Jones, a series rookie in the same equipment as Busch, seemed to have something for Busch and came in second.

Every time this subject comes up fans of those drivers say that they need to be there so people will watch the race. The need to be there so people will go to the race. Those thoughts seam valid except it’s not working. Viewership is down year in and out.

The point is that the XFINITY Series does not have its own stars, its own rivalries. Case in point; Ask yourself who is the current points leader of the Series? Were they even on TV for any significant time? I bet many don’t know without looking it up.

Daniel Suarez is the current point’s leader. Elliott Sadler is just behind him one point back. Justin Allgaier is third nine points back. They were shown a few times on TV but does anyone want to watch the series championship while they are battling for a top ten.

Back to the article; the quote that hit me was from Geoff Ogilvy who was paired with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at Medinah in 2006. Ogilvy said. “I don’t think golf is better without Tiger, from a fan’s perspective. But no Tiger has shown people that there are other golfers worth watching.”

That quote substituting “Tiger” for “Cup Driver” is and of itself what it is all about. The future of all the NASCAR Series may just depend on it especially as our stars retire.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 318383 Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

 

Does Anyone Have Anything for Superman at Martinsville?

Jimmie Johnson has as perfect a driver rating at Martinsville Speedway as a driver can have of 118.4.  This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to action from the Easter break. Does anyone have anything for Jimmie Johnson?

To reiterate a perfect driver rating is 150. The only way a driver can have a perfect rating is if they lead all the laps and win the race. It is impossible for a driver after many races, in this case 22 races to have a perfect rating. A dominating driver will have a rating of 120. Johnson is almost there.

If it was up to me we would race at Martinsville more than two times a year, it’s a special place for me, and my Lowe’s team.” Johnson added, “I had a great weekend off with the family, we are still so excited to have won California and heading to one of my favorite tracks. I’m ready to get back behind the wheel.

Martinsville is one of the hardest tracks in NASCAR. That is what makes Johnson’s driver rating so impressive. There is hope though.

Denny Hamlin, the winner of this race last year, also has an impressive driver rating of 110. Of active drivers Hamlin is second only to Johnson in wins with five to his eight.  Jimmie Johnson has not won this race since the spring of 2013.

I think it will be another fight this weekend to get the win at Martinsville. We have had a lot of success over the years at that track and seem to battle the same guys each year for the win.” Hamlin added, “Jimmie (Johnson) is obviously strong there and our teammates will be tough to beat. Friday’s qualifying is big in terms of getting a good pit stall and on Sunday it’s important to have a mistake-free race. Any sort of issue or penalty can get you a couple laps down in a hurry and spoil a good day. I believe our FedEx Camry will be up front competing for another win.

As Denny Hamlin noted it is important to have a mistake-free race. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick will be there to pounce and scoop up the win. Last year Joey Logano and his teammate Brad Keselowski worked well together but just couldn’t get it done in spite of leading many laps between them in both races. They will also be a factor. If any of these drivers can qualify up front and race mistake free they will have something for Johnson or Hamlin.

If you cannot get to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500 it will be broadcast live on FS1 Sunday April 3rd, 2016 at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 318109 Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

Driver Rating
Martinsville Speedway
STP 500
Provided by NASCAR Statistics Stats Represent Points Races From 2005-Present
Rank Car Driver Team Avg. Finish High Rating Avg. Rating
1 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s 6.9 149.1 118.4
2 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground 8.1 141.1 110.6
3 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Nationwide 11.9 133.1 99.4
4 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s 75 15.1 133.4 96.5
5 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John’s 14.7 129 94.6
6 15 Clint Bowyer Aaron???s 13.7 127.9 92.5
7 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil 14.9 121.9 89.7
8 2 Brad Keselowski AutoTrader 15.5 114.9 87.8
9 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald???s 16.8 114.4 86.9
10 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar 14.5 109.6 86.5
11 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General 13.9 134.6 85.9
12 19 Carl Edwards Arris 15.5 121.1 81.5
13 41 Kurt Busch Monster Energy / Haas 21.2 115.8 80.2
14 14 Brian Vickers Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 19.2 112.4 79.4
15 5 Kasey Kahne Panasonic 20.5 112.8 77.5

NASCAR Sprint Cup Qualifying is Rained Out at Chicagoland Speedway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came to Chicagoland Speedway to kick off the Chase to the Sprint Cup. With the weather man predicting rain at the end of the day prior to qualifying many of the teams cut practice short to run qualifying runs. Unfortunately the weather man and the teams were correct and the rains did come.

In practice, Kevin Harvick was the class of the field in his mock qualifying run posting a time of 28.675; 62/100 faster than Joey Logano. Harvick was the only driver to get into the 188 MPH level. Since qualifying was canceled the lineup will be started according to the rule book and Kevin Harvick will lead the field to green this Sunday with Joey Logano alongside.

As expected most of the sixteen Chase Nation drivers were fast and at the front of the leaderboard. Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. will be in the second row. The other Chase drivers are as follows: Ryan Newman 6th, Kyle Busch 7th, Kurt Busch 10th, Jeff Gordon 11th, Jimmie Johnson 12th, Matt Kenseth 13th, Jamie McMurray 14th, Carl Edwards 15th and Paul Menard 17th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin had trouble during practice and will start 20th, 27th and 30th respectively. Of those three, Denny Hamlin appeared to struggle the most. When Hamlin’s crew got him ready for a mock qualifying run it did not help. He remained 30th quick. Later in the garage they were making wholesale changes to the car, even changing the rear axle. Fortunately for those teams there is another practice on Saturday to work on making those cars better.

Ryan Blaney and the #21Wood Brothers Ford will miss the race for a third time due to rain. Blaney would most likely made the race on time had there been qualifying. Michael McDowell #95 and Travis Kvapil #30 will also miss the race.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312735 Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images

The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway

The regular season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is over. 26 races with 11 individual winners, eight who won multiple times, the Chase Contenders have been decided. The first of the three elimination rounds in the NASCAR playoff format begins at Chicagoland Speedway.

There are 16 contenders for the Championship. Their standings in the points have been reset based on the number of races they have won during the regular season. Those drivers with no wins start with 2000 points. Those drivers with wins get an additional 3 points for each win.

1 Jimmie Johnson 2012
2 Kyle Busch 2012
3 Matt Kenseth 2012
4 Joey Logano 2009
5 Kevin Harvick 2006
6 Dale Earnhardt Jr 2006
7 Kurt Busch 2006
8 Carl Edwards 2006
9 Brad Keselowski 2003
10 Martin Truex Jr 2003
11 Denny Hamlin 2003
12 Jamie McMurray 2000
13 Jeff Gordon 2000
14 Ryan Newman 2000
15 Paul Menard 2000
16 Clint Bowyer 2000

The Challenger Round begins at Chicagoland Speedway then moves on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway the next week and then Dover International Speedway the week after. The four Chase contenders who are lowest in points after Dover will be eliminated from the Chase.

The “Rub” as they say is that any of these drivers who win a race regardless of their point standings gets a pass on this round. If that driver happens to be one of those lower in points then it is possible to be 12th in points and still miss the next round. It is highly unlikely but can happen that the three races could be won by a driver at the bottom of the standings so 10th place may not be safe either.

Looking at the reset points Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer really are starting in a hole even though it is only three points. Three points equals three positions on the race track. There are no bonus points for leading laps, only for winning races. It makes these races much easier to follow.

The new Chase Format puts an emphasis on winning but in reality due to the elimination feature teams must be on top of their game each and every week. Brad Keselowski put this feeling into perspective.

We are ready to go. We have some momentum with the top-10’s lately but we need to turn some of those into wins and we know that. We have 10 weeks though to make that happen. We want to be in the Chase and we want to not take that for granted but on the other side we aren’t just happy with just being in it. We want to do more than just that. That is what we are here to do, to make some noise and hopefully bring home a second championship.

Keselowski knows how it works as much as anyone. He opened the Chase at Chicagoland last year with a three wide pass to win and guarantee himself into the Contender Round. He followed that up with a win in the last race of that round at Talladega to move himself into the Eliminator Round. He wasn’t able to back that effort up in that round and was seven points shy and eliminated from the Championship.

Click on this link to read more on Strategies to Win the Championship.

None of these drivers are going to win the Championship at Chicagoland Speedway but they can dig themselves into a hole. A big hole, one of which the only way to crawl out of is by winning one of the next two races.

Let the Challenger Round begin. It is going to be a great one.

If you cannot get to Chicagoland Speedway for the myAFibRisk.com 400 it will be broadcast on NBCSN on Sunday September 20th starting at 3 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 312197 Matt Sullivan/Getty Images