The Frontstretch: Fact or Fiction: Why Earnhardt's Friday Was Less Important Than His Saturday by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday July 5, 2010

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will stand by his word and not drive the No. 3 car again
FACT

While it was an incredible sight seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. pilot the famed No. 3 to Victory Lane Friday evening, don’t expect to see it again anytime soon…and certainly not with Earnhardt Jr. as the driver. It was easy to doubt him at first because I expect Junior to have a full career and many, many years to slip into the seat of a No. 3 car again – and let’s face it, there were A LOT of Wrangler shirts in the stands – but those thoughts were pretty much put to bed after his comments following his historic win.

“I will never do it. I’ll never rethink it. I’ll never consider it. I think that it’s important for everybody to know that that’s as concrete as it gets. I’ll never do it again,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense for me to do this again. I think in the Nationwide Series, it makes enough sense, and I really wanted to do it, and I’ve done it. I don’t ever want to do it again. And I’ll never change my mind, ever.”

That seems pretty straight forward to me. And I get it. Earnhardt Jr. inherited more pressure than he could have ever asked for and even after two Nationwide championships, 18 Cup wins and a Daytona 500 trophy, the majority of NASCAR fans still aren’t satisfied. You saw what happened this weekend, and even Earnhardt admitted it…second place would have been a failure Friday night.

Now, just because Earnhardt said he will never drive the No. 3 again don’t be surprised to see it in the Nationwide Series with a different driver. I expect the number to be retired from Cup action – whether official or unofficial – but I could see a guy like Austin Dillon eventually bring the No. 3 he’s currently driving in the Truck Series to the Nationwide Series. No matter who’s driving the hallowed number – if anybody ever drives it in Sprint Cup or Nationwide action again — the No. 3 will always touch people’s hearts just like it did Friday night.

Dale Earnhardt Jr’s fourth place finish Saturday was more important than his win Friday
FACT

There’s not one Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan who didn’t get chills watching him end his winless drought at Daytona in a car donning the No. 3, but his fourth place finish in the Coke Zero 400 will ultimately prove to be a more valuable run. By recording his third top 10 in his last four races, Earnhardt has positioned himself for a Chase berth, jumping past Carl Edwards and Mark Martin and into the 11th spot.

While I will admit that his win Friday night was undoubtedly one of the most memorable of his career, the ability to survive the carnage on Saturday and not overdrive a car that wasn’t good enough to finish in the top 10, let alone the top 5, and somehow manage to finish fourth was much more important. It shows a growing patience from the not-quite-young-anymore driver, and with the Chase looming closer, I think Earnhardt would choose a playoff berth over a Nationwide win, regardless of car number, and I’d like to believe Jr. Nation would as well.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove his father’s famous number 3 to victory lane for the last time on Friday, but his fourth place Cup finish Saturday was even more important.

The heated exchange between A.J. Allmendinger and Richard Petty reveals a rift at RPM
FICTION

During a scene not shown on television for whatever reason, A.J. Allmendinger was seen expressing frustration to car owner and NASCAR legend Richard Petty, eventually walking angrily away from his car owner. Media members in the Daytona media center watched in awe as the 10-15 second episode played out and the normally mild-mannered Allmendinger turned his back to one of the sport’s greats. While neither was quoted after the incident, RPM vice president Robbie Loomis had this to say:

“I always say the car owner shouldn’t talk to the driver anytime after the race, especially after an accident… I think Richard’s been here so many times, he’s been through this stuff and he was just trying to get him to loosen up and let the boys do their stuff on fixing the car and getting back out there. Anytime you talk to somebody at the wrong time, it always causes discussion that needs to be worked out. That’s all that happened.”

We’ve seen teammates fight teammates, but a driver expressing frustration in public to an owner is something we have haven’t seen much of. Still, I think Loomis has it right. Petty simply showed up at the wrong time, and while he may be a 7-time champion and 200 race winner, it wasn’t the right place or moment to talk to his heated driver. Allmendinger has an excellent opportunity to be the ‘A’ driver at RPM next year and I don’t see him throwing that away. If anything, after the dust settles from all of this Petty may come out impressed with his driver’s passion and be even more willing to make him the face of the organization.

Contact Mike Lovecchio

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mrclause
07/05/2010 07:12 AM
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If the media doesn’t blow this into something it isn’t it’ll never be more than it was. This was 10-15 seconds writers, not a major deal.

pepper
07/05/2010 11:00 AM
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Thank you for your recap of Jr’s two races and putting them in perspective. It’s refreshing to read a positive story about a driver so loved by so many.

Marybeth
07/05/2010 06:53 PM
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@Mike, In Victory Lane on Friday night, Richard Childress looked at us and deliberately said that Jr. has more wins to come. I believe him. He also knows Jr. has not forgotten how to drive and still has the will to win. I have given up on the wins being at HMS. 90 races down and 90 races to go until Jr.‘s term at HMS is up. :) Halfway through and I am beginning to see some light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. I was curious about Jr.‘s saying that he was not doing a burn-out because he wanted to take the engine back to have it analyzed because it was so much better…? To those who say the NW race was a fix, if it was, so are JJ’s 4 championships.

DoninAjax
07/05/2010 08:59 PM
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If Jr. wanted to honour his father in a Busch (Nationwide) series race, shouldn’t he have used number 8 like his father drove? I like the pink car Big E drove.

Overa88ted
07/05/2010 10:21 PM
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Jr.will drive the #3 again just for the $$$. Without the Go Daddy money Danica brings to JR. Motor sports, they would either have to start and park, or else close down.

Richard Petersen
07/06/2010 06:27 PM
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How could Saturday’s race be more important than Friday’s? Dale Jr took his daddy’s number to victory lane for the fans and for his dad. Everyone was so happy. Richard Childress, Tony Eury Jr, everyone. Then to come back the next night, not do anything staying in the 30s or 20s the WHOLE race. He didn’t even lead a lap. Dale Jr finished 4th by luck, that’s it. That just goes to show Dale Jr belongs with Richard Childress, not Rick Hendrick. You can’t sit there and tell us that Saturday was more important the Friday. Did you see Dale Jr in victory lane Saturday for Hendrick? Nope, i saw him winning Friday for Childress.

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