NASCAR mailbag (cont.)
All these excuses, starting with blaming Teresa because she wouldn't turn over HER business to Junior, to the crew chief, to the owner... the only constant in Junior's slide is JR! Wake up, people!
-- Sheppard1, Bay Area, Calif.
Actually, the constant in Junior's slide is the loss of Tony Eury, Sr. Earnhardt had 15 wins in five years with him and three in five-plus years since the "father figure" stepped down from the pit box at the conclusion of the 2004 season. Insiders say it's a virtual impossibility to get Eury, Sr. back in the same role at Hendrick, but you wonder how much of a difference that would make. We push the same comparison with Matt Kenseth and Robbie Reiser in the wake of Kenseth's struggles; why can't we do that here with his good buddy?
Speaking of crew chiefs...
Re: Your Earnhardt article on his future. Robbie Loomis leaving Hendrick in 2005 was NOT because of the No. 24 team not making the Chase. He was going to leave the end of the year anyways because he reevaluated his life and had some personal things going on. He even said that in interviews. Steve was going to be Jeff's crew chief in 2006 anyways, so they decided to move him up early, and Robbie left earlier since they didn't make the Chase. He was already talking about leaving even if they made the Chase.
-- Amanda, Houston
Fair point, one I knew while writing the column. The reason I glossed right over it is he could have easily stayed through the end of the season, but Hendrick and Co. chose to make a move because the team was struggling under his watch. Also, Gordon missing the Chase still sparked a public outcry at HMS we just haven't seen internally over this whole Junior mess. Again, I ask the question: if Gordon missed the Chase with Steve Letarte this year, in the midst of a winless season would Letarte be out as crew chief?
I firmly believe the answer there is yes. So why isn't Earnhardt's crew held to the same standards? Martin at least has an excuse, the Kasey Kahne circus definitively caused an outside distraction and he and crew chief Alan Gustafson never got under control until it was time for desperation mode. Junior? He's in the third year of a five-year deal, sponsors and contract secure. That leaves no rock to hide behind, allowing us to openly question the stubbornness behind keeping the No. 88 chemistry as is.
How about a trade of Harvick for Earnhardt? At the same time, Childress could bring the No. 3 car back. Thanks.
-- Michael Paczowski, Los Angeles, CA
Any chance this switch could happen got snuffed out earlier this season, Michael. Harvick's re-upped on a multi-year deal that also sees Earnhardt's old sponsor, Budweiser, attaching itself to the No. 29 starting next year. But don't fret, Junior Nation, there's still an outside chance there could be a move under the right circumstances. Jeff Burton's contract runs through the end of 2011, and the possibility exists the 43-year-old could retire rather than run a few more years. Logic would tell you Childress is grooming grandson Austin Dillon, the likely Truck Series Rookie of the Year, to take that seat even if Burton runs through say, 2013. But if Earnhardt is completely dissatisfied at Hendrick and looks to opt out a year early ... it's a major longshot -- along the lines of a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament -- but don't count it out.
One more note on Junior: considering the money he brings into HMS, if the team's still running just as poorly this time next year that contract will become juicy garage gossip. We've seen a long list of drivers escape their deals a year early: Stewart, Kurt Busch, and McMurray are the most prominent examples. Would both sides admit failure after four years considering the millions at stake? It'll be a story that bears watching from the start of next season.
If you want the Nationwide Series to be a developmental series and not a place for the top-tier drivers to beat up on up-and-comers or has-beens, then here's how to fix it: Each week, at noon before the Truck race, a driver needs to declare which series he (or she, as applicable) wants their points to count in. Truck, Nationwide or Cup, pick one. If they win, they still get the purse and the victory, but the series championship should go to someone who is there primarily for that series.
-- Dave, Huntington, W.Va.
Great idea, Dave. We're going to see some sort of tweak next year handicapping Cup guys competing in Nationwide. I just don't know if they'll make a change that sweeping, kicking the sponsor-hungry drivers out and leaving those willing to run a part-time, "extra" schedule for no money and just the love of the sport to help spur driver development by competing against the minor leaguers every now and then.
The road courses really offer good racing from start to finish, and often by drivers who seldom get a chance to win on the tracks making up most of the season. I'd like to see another road course event added, perhaps at a new and different road course.
-- N. Sinclair
I'm with you, Sinclair. But don't just e-mail me! Start bugging NASCAR, who once again will enter the Chase without a third road course that would test drivers under all disciplines, not just the 1.5-to-2-mile ovals that make up half of the 10-race lineup. What's a playoff format for if you don't include every type of track you compete on?
And finally, the out of left field email of the week...
I was born to drive in NASCAR. I grew up in the heart of racing and have it in my soul. I know with a chance, just one chance... you will see the best race car driver in a long time. I watched Richard Petty all my life and never stopped hoping to be in the big race. xxx-xxx-xxxx is my number. I can flat out drive a car. I grew up in a 1967 SS HP/ Chevelle, DROVE IT!!! at 14 years old. Cars of the past: SS 79 Camaro, 1971 /455 Trans Am, 1986 SS Camaro, 1987 Buick Grand National. All these cars as you know require a real driver. I know I can do it.
-- Timothy Mills, Randleman, N.C.
Can you say American Idol for NASCAR? Simon Cowell would just have one criticism, though: you might want to update your resume. God knows those Buick Grand Nationals went out of style oh, about 23 years ago, and Richard Petty's been owning, not driving, a Cup car for about 17 years. hey, the Camaro's bound to come back to the Nationwide circuit at some point, so why don't you get to driving one of those cars in a circle around your backyard to practice, send Mr. Hendrick an audition tape and see what happens. I hear one of his drivers isn't cutting it these days...
"Ripley's baby, believe it or not... U lost!!!!!"
-- @scottspeed to wife Amanda after the Cowboys-Redskins game went final. Amanda Speed's a Cowboys lover ... Scott, well, I think you guys can figure it out
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