The Frontstretch: Dale Junior and Casey Mears: Not Just Numbers by Amy Henderson -- Thursday September 6, 2007

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Dale Junior and Casey Mears: Not Just Numbers

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday September 6, 2007


OK, I get a lot of things. I get how stupid the Chase is, and it's at least as bad as the Top 35 rule. I even sort of get the rulebook. Well, I can read and understand what some of it is talking about, so that should put me on par with some of the teams. How it's applied is a different story. I don't think even NASCAR gets that one. But there is one thing I just don't understand in the garage these days (not counting the groupies, but they're another story). What is the big deal over Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s number?

I understand why the number is a big deal to Junior. It's not about marketing; it's not about money-it's about his family legacy and the fact that his Daddy chose that number for him in honor of his own father, who Junior never had the chance to meet. To Teresa Earnhardt it's about marketing and the money to be garnered from the trademark. But I don't understand why the fans are so up in arms about it. I understand the tattoo thing, but, well, race fans should know better-forever is a long time in this business. But in the long run, it's just a number. Junior is still Junior, still the same driver, no matter what is on the side of his car. It's shameful that he had to ask his fans to stop their hateful comments about his stepmother-most of them over the number. That was a private battle, not ours to wage.

Ditto Casey Mears. I know it must be hard for his fans with Mears on his third number in three years. That's a lot of hats and diecasts. But the allegations that Earnhardt, Jr. just waltzed in and demanded the number are laughable. Just guessing here, but it's probably more along the lines of the No. 5's history at Hendrick Motorsports and the wishes of the sponsor. The 5 was Little Ricky’s team. Not to mention, Mears' move to the 5 team after this year includes the whole shebang-cars, top crew chief (while retaining Darian Grub as an engineering consultant-always Grubb's real forte), and family-friendly sponsor Kellogg's. The move essentially-and rightfully-moves Mears up a notch in the Hendrick hierarchy, to a team that has won consistently for more than a decade. I don't see how that's not something to be very happy about.

Not that there aren't numbers that are associated with certain drivers, no matter who else drove them. I don't think anybody who loved racing during the Dale Earnhardt era wouldn't feel strange should another driver take to the track in the legendary No. 3. Some really good drivers have driven the 28, but in many minds, that car was Davey Allison's. The 43 was (and still is) the King's ride, and it just looks funny with the yellow against Carolina blue. Jeff Gordon will probably buck recent trends and drive his entire career in the rainbow No. 24-possibly the most reviled number in recent history.

Maybe it comes of being a longtime fan of a driver who has had more numbers in his career than I can count on both hands, but to me it's never been a big deal. A nuisance to be sure, but nothing to get upset about. A fact of racing, nothing more. It was never a personal vendetta. It certainly wasn't worth hours of effort of online petitions and overt animosity toward a car owner. I know the number on the hat or t-shirt identifies one fan of that driver to another, but, as true fans of any journeyman driver will tell you, the real fans will recognize even the oldest paraphernalia from their favorite. It's not a personal insult to fans when a driver changes teams and gets a new number. It is, in the words of Robby Gordon, what it is.

The bottom line is, the number doesn't make the man. It makes some fine memories and some amazing stories, but not the driver. The driver may define the number, but the number doesn't define the driver. And it shouldn't define the fans, either.

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09/07/2007 07:07 AM

I understand what you are saying, but Theresa can’t even hire a driver to touch that #. She is not going to get the revenue from it she once had, so why not let it go where it belongs. I will pity Mark Martin the first time he sets in that car on a race track. It won’t be him, it will be the # and Theresa they will be crucifying!

09/07/2007 07:27 AM

The 25 was Papa Joe’s team, not the 5.

Barry Kentrup
09/07/2007 09:50 AM

You say you understand why Jr. would want the number which his father wanted for him; but you don’t understand what is the “big deal”!!!

I don’t believe that Jr. wanted to leave DEI (the company his father started), do you??

I believe he wanted to make changes within DEI to make his team more competitive, don’t you??

His step-mother was not responsive to the deterioration in his team’s situation.

He was forced out of DEI by teresa and Max. Two people who have been identified on this site as great business people.

They may be great at marketing someone else’s accomplishments, but take a look, the goose is gone!!! There won’t be nearly as many golden eggs to count as there were before.

How did this happen?? It was by the two of you failing to see.

Budweiser didn’t cause or deserve this. They just put up the money for you to operate. You two let them down also. How can any sponsor consider the DEI brain trust worthy of their sponsorship dollars when they see what you did to Bud???

I know Jr. asked for the negativism to stop, I am sensitive to his feelings regarding Taylor. I am not the one who caused this situation in the first place, Taylor’s mother brought this on herself and Taylor needs to learn that lesson so she can make smart decisions in her adult life. Decisions have consequences!! Sorry Taylor, I mean you no harm and you are not responsible for this situation, in any way.

No, I have no tattoo’s and have been a Jeff Gordon fan since Bill left full-time racing. I don’t believe that Jr., or for that matter Mark Martin, is getting a fair-shake in this whole deal.

I will stand up, turn my back to the track and Boo!!! as loudly as I can when they announce Mark Martin as the driver of the 8 car.

Sorry this is so long.

09/07/2007 09:56 AM

I just dont see how Dale Jr can just pick his own number. Is he the boss or is Rick Hendrick?

09/07/2007 02:20 PM

How do we know he did pick his own number. Maybe he had no choice in the matter. Like this article states, the move puts Casey up a notch in the heirarchy so don’t think this was necessarily in Jr’s favor.

09/07/2007 02:37 PM

Ttwp, you are correct about the 25 being Papa Joe’s-the 5 was little Ricky’s. I edited out some irrelevant stuff about the 25 and when I cut and pasted, that happened. I have corrected the error.

Barry, I do know that the number was a big deal to Junior-what I do not understand is why his fans are spending so much time and effort worrying about it. Junior made his decision and knew he could lose the number-he wanted it for sentimental reasons, but didn’t complain about having to change. As for choosing his number or not…again, I don’t see why it matters. I’m also pretty comfortable with guessing that Casey mears had at least some say in things-and he got a good deal. I just don’t understand why, when nothing is differnt than it has been for almost 60 years in regard to numbers and who drives which one, race fans are suddenly so up in arms about the number on the side-Junior and Casey are still Junior and Casey, no matter what number is on the door.

09/07/2007 03:04 PM

Why would DEI think that putting Mark Martin in the 8 will keep the fans happy? Maybe IF he was a full time driver as he used to be respected by most fans. I would never spend a penny on merchandise for a part time driver. Most Martin fans I know no longer wear his gear nor even care anymore what he does as they weren’t happy about him going to Chevy. The same goes for people we knew who were die hard Jarrett fans. They jumped on the Kenseth band wagon. So don’t be surprised when Mark gets booed as it will happen. He had lost alot of fans anyway. Also Tony will loose alot of fans by going to Toyota. Alot of fans choose their manufacture and then their driver. My husband was a Tony fan and now he hopes Gibbs falls apart. My son and his wife were die hard Kurt Busch fans (she worked at the corp. office and they perfer Fords) used to attend at least 1 to 2 races a year and now never even watch a race. There is so many drivers jumping around Nascar is becoming a soap opera. Turn into tomorrow to see who goes where.

And as far as Jr wanting the 8 – It was his grandfathers no. and his dad got the 8 for him and I’m sure he also wanted the 8 for his fans that have houses full of no. 8 stuff. I’m sure in the back of his mind he knew he would never be able to take the 8 with him but being his grandfathers no. and caring for his fans he had hoped it would work out so they at least tried. Sure leaving DEI was his choice but he felt it was what he had to do. I know if I didn’t like what my place of employment I would be looking at the help wanted ads.

Theresa will NEVER make as much off any driver as she did Jr. and that is a fact. Jr. has asked the fans in around about way to not talk so poorly of Theresa but deep down alot of the fans will never pull for DEI again.

09/08/2007 12:11 PM

had Teresa been the kind of owner to keep up with the racing aspect of DEI instead of “marketing” the #3 —none of this would have happened—so lay the blame on the doorstep where it belongs—all Jr. ever wanted was a team that was competitive—strange that after he decided to leave, all the money and energy for a competitive race team started to develope—maybe this is what Teresa had in mind all along???


Contact Amy Henderson

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