Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Aaron's 499

What an awesome, yet scary finish to the spring race at Talladega. In the last 2 laps, Brad hooked onto the back of Carl Edwards and didn't let off his bumper. Ryan Newman and Dale Jr had broken away from the pack, and it looked as though Ryan was gonna win. Brad and Carl flew by Junebug and Ryan on the last lap and as Brad went to pass, Carl tried to block. However, Brad, knowing the rule about not passing under the yellow line, stayed in the line he was in, which (and contrary to popular belief this was not Brad's fault, both he and Carl admitted to that) turned Carl and sent his car airborne. Aside from that, Junior still finished second, and after having his post race interview, went to Victory Lane to congratulate his Nationwide driver on his first Sprint Cup victory. The 2nd place finish moves Dale Jr up to 14th points and I just saw he's scheduled to race the #09 in the race at Richmond this coming Saturday.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Aaron's 499 qualifying

Both Brad and Dale Jr qualified really well today. Brad actually qualified higher than Junebug! Two spots, but still, that is really impressive! Brad qualified 9th in the 09 Phoenix Racing Miccosukee Indian Gaming Chevy and Dale Jr will start 11th with National Guard on the car tomorrow. The Aaron's 499 begins at 1pm tomorrow on FOX.

Aaron's 312

I love Dale Jr as you all know, but I just have one question for him. Junebug, do you not know what your pit signs look like by now? I mean, come on man, maybe you should look at them as you walk by your pit box on your way to the car before the race begins. Also, look at those on either side and who's beside them. Then when you come in you'd know who's there and what signs to look for. Ok enough of that, Dale Jr did race in the Nationwide Series and the reason for my little rant there is because he did miss his pit box. Dale Jr started 12th and finished 5th. Brad started 10th and finished 9th, this top 10 finish moved Brad down one spot in the standings to 6th.

Mears, Earnhardt Jr. put PIR incident behind them

By Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM

Drivers texted each other, no ill feelings heading to 'Dega

Let's repeat that for those in Junior Nation who might still be hanging onto some conspiracy belief that there is more to it: last Saturday's incident between their beloved driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Casey Mears was no big deal.

So say the two drivers who were involved in it and received six-race probation sentences for it from NASCAR. The incident began as the two were fighting for the 20th position with 11 laps remaining in Saturday's Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Mears ended up inadvertently tapping Earnhardt and sending him spinning into the wall. Earnhardt retaliated after completion of the race by spinning Mears during the cool-down lap, after which Mears' No. 07 car ran down Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet as they came down pit road and rapped him a couple times.

"Me and Mears are cool," Earnhardt said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway. "We've been buddies. What happens on the track stays on the track. It's good to be on probation every once in a while, I guess."

The two were teammates at Hendrick Motorsports last season. Mears now drives for Richard Childress Racing.

"We ended up texting back and forth this week; we kept missing each other's phone call. It's not that big a deal," Mears said.

Then, thinking of Earnhardt's vast fan base as NASCAR's long-running most popular driver, Mears amended that comment before describing what happened in his eyes.

"Typically, it's not that big a deal, but with him it always is," Mears said. "We were running him down pretty quick and I got inside of him. I was having a problem the whole time with my rear brakes. He ended up being the Lucky Dog [the first car one lap down] by the time I got to him. I didn't think about it because we were running him down so fast, and then he started racing me really hard for the Lucky Dog.

"And he was running me down, pinching me down real tight. I was already loose in -- and the way these cars are now, if you run right on the right side of somebody, it loosens them up even more. So it was just a combination; I got loose and ended up getting into him. But it wasn't without a little bit of help on his part. I think he was pretty frustrated the way they were running the whole race and that probably just topped it off.

"So after the checkered flag the whole line was held up, and I didn't really see why and had forgotten about it by then. I was coming around the outside and I saw him at the last minute and I swerved, knowing what was coming. I just got [ticked] off because I got spun out, so I went back and let him know that I was [ticked] off.''

Earnhardt was, too. But more than anything else about the way his day ended after he earlier had led 63 laps.

"Me and Casey are real good friends, so we definitely wouldn't go the week without having a discussion about it," Earnhardt added. "He's having a better year this year, but is still not satisfied and I'm definitely in the same position he is. We're just trying to run better.

"It's just frustrating. I knew that he had made a mistake because Casey doesn't run over people, but I just lost my cool. It happens. I just hated leading the race and running good and then getting wrecked running 20th. That's all that was."

Mears said that he accepts the punishment and that he believes a six-race probation is fair.

"We didn't put anybody in harms way with what we were doing," Mears said. "I mean, we got down to pit road when I bumped him. But I obviously knew we were on pit road. I wasn't going to shove him into somebody on pit road. I just wanted to bump him a little and know I was upset. And where he did it on the race track, it was after the race, there was nobody out there and nobody was going to get hurt. I think we both proved our point and no harm, no foul, we'll go on to next week.''

Next week, of course, is here now. Neither driver expects any ill will to carry over to this Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega.

"We were teammates last year and we're fine," Mears said. "I know him pretty well. I am sure he was pretty frustrated with the fact that he ended up getting wrecked, which is understandable. Mine was clearly an accident, his was clearly deliberate, so I was clearly [ticked] off about it and did something back.

"But at the end of the day, it's from weekend to weekend and that was last weekend. He's grown up enough to know that, I'm grown up enough to know that. We've both got bigger fish to fry right now. We've got to work on getting points; I think he does, too. If we start worrying about each other, it's not going to make any sense.

"At the same time, I think NASCAR takes the precaution [of handing out the probations] because you don't know [what's happening] behind the scenes. I might not have been able to get a hold of Junior, and there's no telling what we'd be thinking coming into here. On their side, they do something that makes them feel good about it, and makes us think about it a little more.''

Monday, April 20, 2009

Subway Fresh Fit 500

Dale Jr looked strong to start, starting 15th and going back and forth between the top 20's. He had good pit stops and even managed to lead the race twice, at one point extending his lead to 4 seconds over Vile Kyle. However, Casey Mears somehow made contact with Junior. Junior spun around and was never able to get back up to the front by the end of the race. Junior finished 31th and although he got 5 points for leading the race, dropped to 19th in points. Congrats to Brad on his 3rd place finish in the Bashas' Supermarkets 200. This finish has moved Brad to 5th in points. Next week we go to a track that Junior has done very well at and I really hope he doesn't get involved in "the big one" this time. That's right, it's Talladega and it's one of the tracks where Dale Jr has taken the checkered flag.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The 8 should have stayed with Junior

By Marty Smith

(I love Marty Smith for the simple fact that no matter what, as a columnist he has stood up for Dale Jr no matter what. He's blunt about what should have happened with the #8 and I think all of Junior Nation agrees with the headline of this article.)

From the time I was in grade school I chose jersey No. 9 for all possible athletic exploits. Every kid in the South fought like hell over No. 3 (Dale Murphy), and we were no different. Once my buddy Bones (still my best friend) secured it, I chose Mama's birthday, Dec. 9.

There were 85s and 34s and 7s sprinkled in there sporadically when an older kid wanted the 9-er, but nothing else ever felt quite right. I had a vanity plate in college pronouncing my beloved digit, and in the mid-90s fast-food joints all over the New River Valley were devoid of window statics proclaiming 99-cent tacos or the $3.99 value meal.

To this day, my personal e-mail address centers on the numeral 9. My wife and I went to the Vatican last year and I stopped on the ninth floor just to pose by the marble block inscribed "IX."

Marty Smith
Courtesy Marty Smith
Can you guess Marty Smith's favorite number? The ninth floor of the Vatican revealed all.

I bore you with all this mess to illustrate how important jersey numbers are to most dudes. It sounds completely ridiculous, but it's part of an athlete's identity.

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis bought No. 26 from a journeyman defensive back for 40 grand; he even got sued when he didn't pay up on time. When Tom Glavine was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the New York Mets, he financed a nursery in teammate Joe McEwing's home in exchange for jersey No. 47. Brian Jordan bought a $40,000 motorcycle for a Braves third-base coach to score the No. 33.

You get the idea.

Too bad Teresa Earnhardt was too stubborn to be bought.

That AMP car would look sick with a big ol' red 8 slapped on the side. Dale Earnhardt Jr. designs a gorgeous race car, and has settled well into the 88. But for me he'll always be No. 8.

It fit him perfectly. His grandfather's number, it was part of the family lineage. His ol' man drove it some, too. And from the very second the Budweiser Chevy was unveiled at Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 1998, it became Junior's identity.

It was one of the three most famous race cars in NASCAR history: the Petty blue 43, the black Earnhardt 3 and Junior's red 8.

It's more famous than Pearson's 21 or Darrell's 11 or Rusty's 2. Just is. You can't convince me otherwise.

The (Junior) Nation proves it. From Spokane to Sebring, there are slanted 8s tattooed on arms and legs and posterior regions and heaven knows where else. Budweiser made a commercial once joking about the phenomenon, how people would completely freak out if he were to change his number. As if that would ever happen.

You just don't see that with 24s or 48s or 18s or anything else. Occasionally, sure, but not to that degree.

NASCAR is numbers. In NASCAR it's not the DuPont car. It's the 24. It's not the Office Depot car. It's the 14. In stick-and-ball sports there might be 30 No. 12s across the league. In NASCAR there's one.

That makes the relationship between driver and number even more identifiable.

And that makes the fact that the 8 is now dormant even sadder.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing reportedly will suspend operations of the No. 8 due to lack of sponsorship; further proof, as if any were needed, that the number should have gone with Junior to Hendrick Motorsports.

But Teresa Earnhardt was having none of it. Her stipulations for forking it over? A portion of the licensing revenue and guaranteed return of the number when Junior was done driving, among other things.

Ultimately, the divide was too great.

It was a shame then. It's an even bigger shame now.

Even if Junior wanted the number now, he still couldn't get it. EGR told me it's not for sale.

When Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs, folks wondered if he'd take the 20. It was all he'd ever driven in NASCAR, and was part of his competitive identity. But as it turned out it wasn't much of a story, not nearly as dramatic or passionate as whether Earnhardt would keep the 8.

That's because Stewart got to go drive a childhood hero's number.

Earnhardt already was.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

EGR's No. 8 car shutting down due to no sponsor

The car that Dale Earnhardt Jr. made famous is being shut down indefinitely.

The No. 8 car at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is suspending operations due to a lack of sponsorship, the team confirmed Wednesday. The vehicle, driven this season by Aric Almirola, lost the backing of primary sponsor U.S. Army to Stewart-Haas Racing over the winter, and has raced this year on short-term deals.

EGR president Steve Lauletta said the suspension was something the team knew was a possibility, given that the No. 8 car opened the year without full-time backing.

"When we started last November forming Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, our plan was to go into the season and run the three cars, but we knew we needed funding for Aric's car in order to make that happen," Lauletta said. "... We did everything we could to find that one company that would jump on board and take a number of races to keep going, but we haven't had the time to do that just yet. It takes a long time, especially in these economic conditions, to bring a sponsorship to closure. While we were doing that, we just couldn't continue to keep going to the race track without the proper funding from a sponsor perspective."

Almirola said he knew the No. 8 team had enough money to get to Texas, but after that there were no guarantees. He learned Monday night that the team had suspended operations.

"I've been kept abreast of everything going on, and it wasn't a secret we were looking for sponsors. So surprise is not the right word," he said. "But definitely a little bit if a disappointment, because I'm a race car driver and I love to race. I want to do nothing more than be at the race track every week and race, but I understand the situation, for sure. I understand it takes a lot of money to show up on the race track every weekend. And when you don't have it, you don't have it. We have to work hard at trying to go find it."

Sources indicate that about 40 employees risk losing jobs in the suspension. Lauletta said the No. 8 program would be revived if sponsorship were to be found. Almirola's car has carried the colors of four different sponsors in its seven races this season. The 25-year-old Tampa native stands 37th in owners' points, by far the lowest of the three full-time EGR cars. Juan Montoya is 13th and Martin Truex Jr. 24th (owners' points).

"We're talking to a lot of companies. We had a couple of companies with us at Texas," said Lauletta, referring to the site of last weekend's Sprint Cup event. "We've been doing this one [race] at a time, two at a time, three at a time, and it's really tough to do that. So we decided to not go to Phoenix and get ourselves to the point where we can get that sponsor that will believe in Aric and market around Aric and help our team. Once we do that, we'll be back with the 8 on the track."

Almirola is still under contract with EGR, Lauletta said, although he added the organization would consider talking to other teams interested in providing the driver with seat time while the No. 8 car is shut down.

"At the point that I'm at in my career, I'm not a seasoned veteran by any means, so every day I'm in the race car I feel like I'm learning something new and getting better," Almirola said. "Seat time is extremely important to me. But it costs money. Even to go test, it costs money. The moral of the story or the bottom line or however you want to put it is, you need money to do those kinds of things. So every day that goes by that I'm not in a race car and somebody else is, I feel like I'm at a disadvantage."

Lauletta also reiterated that there are no clauses in the contract of Truex's car sponsor, Bass Pro Shops, that demand at least two full-time teammates.

"Bass Pro and Target and Martin and Juan, everybody understands what we're doing and they all buy into it," Lauletta said. "So there are no changes coming on the 42 [car of Montoya] or the 1 [car of Truex], and we're just going to keep doing what we need to do to get those cars into the Chase and performing where we need to them perform."

Sprint Cup series off this week

For some reason it totally slipped my mind that this Sunday is Easter. The Sprint Cup drivers are off, however The Nationwide Series will run at Nashville tomorrow. I'll be working so I won't get to see the race. I really hope Brad gets it together, he ran so well last season and seems to be getting a slow start to his season. Come on Brad, we know you can do it!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

O'Reilly 300 and Samsung 500

I didn't get to watch the Nationwide race, but I do know that Brad finished 3rd (the highest he's finished so far this season) and Junebug finished 20th. Brad's top 5 finished moves him to 7th in the point standings. In the Samsung 500, Dale Jr had an up and down day, moving all the way to the top ten, then dropping back, and on a two tire pit stop made up 11 astonishing spots to lead the race for 6 laps before getting bumped by Vile Kyle on a restart. (Surprise, surprise) Things got a little worse from there. While coming in, Junior couldn't see the sign for his pit box and missed it, and when he came back, got that taken care of, he was missed a lug nut and went a lap down. He finished 20th, the exact same spot where he started. Junebug however, holds on to his 16th spot in the point standings.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A little bit of NASCAR at Wrestlemania Fan Axxess

Check this out! The 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania is sponsored by the Army National Guard and I happened to be looking at pictures of the Wrestlemania Fan Axxess (which is WWE's version of Speedweeks in Daytona) Since one of Junebug's sponsors is the National Guard so it's only fitting that his show car be at Wrestlemania Axxess.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

O'Reilly 300 and Samsung 500 Qualifying

Dale Jr is running both the Nationwide and the Sprint Cup races this weekend. In the O'Reilly 300 he qualified 9th and that race starts at 2:30pm this afternoon on ESPN2. In the Samsung 500, Junebug qualified 20th and that race (including pre-race) starts at 1:30pm on FOX.