Swan Racing Announces Restructuring, No. 26 & No. 30 "Sold" Off
posted by Thomas Bowles
Wednesday April 23, 2014
After a week of uncertainty, Swan Racing’s two teams will show up at Richmond Friday night after a combination of mergers and acquisitions have kept the two teams up and running. The moves, announced in a press release Wednesday will keep rookie Cole Whitt behind the wheel of the No. 26 while J.J. Yeley moves into the No. 30, replacing Parker Kligerman effective immediately.
The solution for Whitt was rather simple: Swan co-owner Anthony Marlowe merged his portion of ownership into a deal with BK Racing. That team will now expand to three cars, with Whitt running full-time (for now) alongside fellow rookies Alex Bowman (No. 23) and Ryan Truex (No. 83). The move will also keep former Swan employees working full-time, rehired by BK as enough money was gathered up to keep the No. 26 up and running. Whitt, who has a best run of 18th this season (Fontana) will remain competing with his crew essentially intact.
“I respect Brandon Davis and everything he has done for the Swan Racing Company,” said Marlowe in the release. “Looking forward, my mission is to ensure Cole Whitt races in every NASCAR Sprint Cup event this season. My friend Ron Devine and the BK Ownership group really stepped up to enable me to keep the No. 26 on the track. Cole and Randy [Cox, crew chief] are off to an auspicious start in 2014 for a new Cup Team and we are gearing up for Richmond. In addition to the No. 26 team’s performance so far this year, the new ‘win and you’re in’ system and qualifying rules were motivating and positive factors in my continued investment in NASCAR.”
As for Swan’s No. 30, the equipment has been sold to Johnathan Cohen and his Xxxtreme Motorsports operation. That team, which has yet to make a race this season with J.J. Yeley will now run that No. 30 with their own Chevys before switching to the new Swan equipment (plus their old number, 44) beginning at Talladega. It’s an opportunity for them to gain speed and perhaps run a full race. Xxxtreme, with patchwork funding has yet to run more than 66 laps in any Cup event, start-and-parking in every race it’s made since making a go at NASCAR’s top level in mid-2012.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity in our organization,” Cohen tweeted after the purchase. “But today, made a big step in the right direction.”
Co-owner Brandon Davis, who had been MIA before Tuesday’s public announcement praised both Marlowe and Cohen in helping keep the equipment, former employees, and one of his two drivers afloat while Swan searches for funding to keep racing.
“Anthony and Jonathan are both young and ambitious NASCAR enthusiasts,” he said in a statement, later reiterating those points on SIRIUS XM Radio. “It is important to keep them in the sport for the long term. I am very relieved to know that the Nos. 26 and 30 teams will be in good hands and will continue to compete the remainder of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Most importantly, most of the team members have the opportunity to continue their employment in the sport and to support their families. This was critically important to me.”
So what happens to Swan’s other rookie, Parker Kligerman? Davis has retained Kligerman’s contract, and while the team has officially suspended operations he’s actively searching for funding to get the No. 30 back on track. Should it happen, it’ll be a one-car program with Kligerman at the wheel despite an ugly start that left the first-year driver 38th in series points.
“We are encouraged by the response we have received from interested parties,” Davis said of Kligerman. “Parker continues to be one of the most talented young drivers in NASCAR. He brought this racing team one of its strongest results in his first race with us [18th at Texas], and we are certain of his success in the future.”
The driver, in his response left the door open to run for other programs. Swan, which has partnered with celebrities like the NFL’s Bill Romanowski and rapper 50 Cent may be able to parlay those connections into funding that gets Kligerman into another car in the meantime.
“Although it’s unfortunate we are having to scale back, I look forward to the future and the exciting things that I’m confident we will accomplish at Swan Racing or with another team,” said Kligerman. “I value the relationship that I’ve had with Brandon Davis and am very grateful for him giving me an opportunity to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Whether I continue to race with Brandon and Swan Racing or end up with another team, I will always give it my all on and off track to be the best I can be.”
Connect with Tom!
Daniel Suarez to Make Nationwide Debut for Joe Gibbs Racing at Richmond
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday April 22, 2014
Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Tuesday morning that NASCAR Toyota Series and K&N Pro Series East driver Daniel Suarez will make his Nationwide Series debut in Friday night’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway. Sponsorship will be provided by Silent Circle, a global service that allows for the sending of encrypted communications and Telcel, a Mexican telecommunications company.
Suarez is thrilled to have the opportunity to race for Joe Gibbs Racing at Richmond.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to make my NASCAR Nationwide Series debut,” Suarez said in a press release. “I want to thank Telcel and Silent Circle for believing in me and making this a reality. I can’t wait for Friday night in Richmond.”
JGR President J.D. Gibbs is very excited to have an up and coming talent such as Suarez in the fold.
“Daniel is certainly someone that has proven to have a lot of talent and we are thrilled this was able to come together and allow him to make his debut at Richmond,” Gibbs said. “I think it’s exciting when you look at the young talent our sport has right now and we certainly feel that Daniel is going to be part of the future for NASCAR.”
For Suarez, the 2014 season has been very successful so far. He started tke K&N Pro Series East season with two wins in three days in New Smyrna Beach, FL and Daytona Beach, FL (as part of the UNOH Battle at the Beach). Despite a crash at Bristol, Suarez still ranks second in points behind Ben Rhodes. In the Toyota Series, Suarez came from behind to win the season opening Toyota 120 at Phoenix International Raceway in front of all the Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams. Another win in Chiapas and a second-place finish at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez’s oval gives him a nine point lead over Antonio Perez.
This will be a very busy weekend for Suarez. With the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown moving to South Boston Speedway this year, the K&N Pro Series East Blue Ox 100 will be held immediately after the conclusion of the Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250. In addition, the Toyota Series will have their fourth race of the season at the Autodromo de Monterrey in Suarez’s hometown on Sunday.
Gene Haas' Formula One License Application Accepted By FIA
posted by Phil Allaway
Friday April 11, 2014
This morning, the FIA announced that the license application submitted by Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas had officially been accepted. As a result, provided that everything comes together financially and technically, Haas’ new Formula One team will have a spot on the grid at the start of the 2015 season.
Upon receiving the news this morning, Haas released the following statement.
“Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA,” Haas wrote. “It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One.”
“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid. I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our license application come to fruition.”
Haas’ team would be the 12th team on the Formula One grid for the 2015 season if all the current teams return. Much like the failed USF1 team that Peter Windsor was involved with, the team would partially be based in North Carolina with an additional European base.
Stewart-Haas Racing is setting up a press conference for Monday to further discuss the move. We’ll have more information here at Frontstretch as soon as it becomes available.
Speeds Approach 220 MPH At Michigan Test
posted by Phil Allaway
Thursday April 10, 2014
On Wednesday, Goodyear held the second and final day of their tire test at Michigan International Speedway. The overall goal of the test was so teams could come up with a solution that would encourage better racing on the two-mile, D-shaped oval, while at the same time allowing for a compound that would not blister.
Much of the headlines from the test seemed to stem from high speeds reported. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tweeted a computer readout that stated he reached 215.2 mph. Clint Bowyer went a little bit faster at 217 mph, which Bowyer later described as “whites-in-your-eyes fast.” Greg Biffle told ESPN’s Shannon Spake on NASCAR Now that he reached 220 mph and a 204 mph average.
Despite the high speeds, the drivers who tested Tuesday and Wednesday believe that there will be better racing this year in the Irish Hills. Michigan winters are a bit harsher than in most locales on the Sprint Cup calendar. As a result, there is more weathering from year to year.
Earnhardt Jr. appeared to be quite happy with the track.
“I enjoy racing here,” the two-time Michigan winner said. “It’s a fun track. The asphalt is really aging well and it’s just going to keep getting better and better over the next couple of years.”
As is the norm for Goodyear tire tests, no official speeds were announced. However, Earnhardt Jr. stated in the Media Center that while he was going anywhere from 212-215 mph at the end of the frontstretch, he was only dropping down to 180 or so in the turns.
Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman echoed Earnhardt Jr.’s sentiment when asked about the track surface. They expect the track to support multiple grooves for racing when the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series return in June.
As for track management, they definitely appear to like the high speeds. Michigan International Speedway President Roger Curtis spent part of Wednesday retweeting top speed posts. However, Curtis understands that going fast is not the only thing that matters.
“The drivers are posting 200 mph. That’s awesome,” Curtis said. “The fans get very, very excited about that. But at the end of the day, on Sunday when the green flag drops, the numbers ‘two zero zero’ they’re not anywhere in the fans’ minds. It’s lead changes, it’s the competition…”
Since the track was repaved prior to the 2012 season, the number of lead changes at Michigan International Speedway has been relatively flat with the years before the repave. However, the number of cautions are up as well, which can skew the lead change numbers a little. Complaints have come more from a rock hard tire compound, made by Goodyear for safety reasons which has made passing more difficult and actual “wear” (which leads to speed dropoff) hard to come by.
Sherwin-Williams To Sponsor No. 51 Cup Car At Darlington
posted by Phil Allaway
Thursday April 10, 2014
On Wednesday, HScott Motorsports announced that Sherwin-Williams will serve as the primary sponsor of Justin Allgaier’s No. 51 Chevrolet this weekend at Darlington Raceway. The No. 51 will primarily be advertising the automotive finishes division, in addition to the AWX Performance Plus Waterborne Refinish System the company makes.
Allgaier is very happy to have Sherwin-Williams onboard.
“I’m thrilled to have Sherwin-Williams on the car at Darlington,” Allgaier said in the press release. “They are a big supporter of HScott Motorsports and NASCAR. I can’t wait drive the No. 51 with the Sherwin-Williams colors on it at one of my favorite tracks.”
Sherwin-Williams has a fairly extensive history in NASCAR. They currently serve as the “Official Automotive Paint of NASCAR.” Prior to that, the company served as a primary sponsor for a number of cars in what is now the Nationwide Series.
As for Allgaier, Saturday will more than likely be his first career Sprint Cup start at the historic oval. However, in five Nationwide Series starts, Allgaier already has two top-5 and three top-10 finishes. His average result is an excellent 9.8.
Bass Pro Shops Primary Sponsor For Austin Dillon In Two Cup Races
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday April 9, 2014
Announced Tuesday in a ceremony and car unveiling at their Concord, NC location, Bass Pro Shops and Richard Childress Racing made it official that the national outdoor sports retail giant will be the primary sponsor of Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet SS for two races during the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season at Talladega (May 4th) and Daytona (July 5th).
Bass Pro Shops has been associated with Dillon’s career dating back to 2010, when they sponsored his No. 3 Chevy Silverado in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and also followed Dillon to the Nationwide Series as a sponsor for his No. 3 Chevy Camaro for RCR. The two won a pair of NASCAR championships together, and the retailer has also served as an associate sponsor for Dillon’s car in the NSCS this season.
During the announcement, Bass Pro Shops noted that the retailer has been involved in the sport of NASCAR since 1998, when they became an associate sponsor of RCR’s No. 3 Chevy Monte Carlo driven by legend Dale Earnhardt.
Now, the sponsor is back on the Cup level, paired with the No. 3 once again and hoping to elevate the program to Victory Lane. Already, Dillon has one pole to start the season at Daytona, where he posted a ninth-place finish, his best result to date during this rookie campaign. 21st at Texas last weekend, he’s currently 11th in the Sprint Cup championship standings.
For the Bojangles’ Southern 500 this weekend at Darlington, Dillon will have Dow Chemical on board as the primary sponsor for the No. 3 car.
Ruud To Sponsor Buescher, No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday April 9, 2014
RAB Racing announced that Ruud, heating and cooling brand, will be on board the No. 99 Toyota Camry as primary sponsor this weekend at Darlington for the VFW Sport Clips Help-A-Hero 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. The brand joins Rheem as a primary sponsor of the car during the 2014 Nationwide Series campaign. Ruud will also sponsor the No. 99 of James Buescher in several other races this season, according to a team statement.
Buescher, the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion, is driving full-time for RAB Racing and making the transition from the Truck Series to the NNS this year. The No. 99 team was recently penalized by NASCAR at Bristol for a P3 penalty (illegal weight added to the car improperly, which was lost during the race), which led to crew chief Chris Rice being fined $10,000 and placed on probation until December 31st. Car chief John Guerra was also placed on probation by the sanctioning body for the incident.
Sitting ninth in points thus far in 2014, Buescher’s best finish this season has been 12th at Phoenix. The 24-year-old, Plano, Texas native has one career win and 14 top-10 finishes in the NNS since his first start in 2008.
Five Sprint Cup Teams Test At MIS For Goodyear
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday April 9, 2014
After a long winter in Michigan, five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams visited Michigan International Speedway for a Goodyear Tire Test taking place both Tuesday and Wednesday this week. To prepare for the test, MIS reported having to use the track’s jet dryers to clear and melt snow and ice from the two-mile track.
Due to the snow melt, frost, and rain on Monday night, MIS had to delay the tire test for most of the day because of weepers around the track’s surface. The track crew worked throughout the afternoon to dry up the moisture so that testing could get safely underway. Finally, Greg Biffle took his No. 16 3M Ford Fusion to the asphalt at MIS around 4:00 PM ET as the first driver on track.
In addition to Biffle, Goodyear has scheduled drivers Clint Bowyer; Trevor Bayne; Ryan Newman; and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to take part in the tire test, which is open to fans from 9 AM to 5 PM today.
Michigan International Speedway is in for a busy summer in the Irish Hills as the track plays host to the Quicken Loans 400 on June 15th, then the Pure Michigan 400 on August 17th.
Logano's Four Tires Triumph Over Jeff Gordon's Two At Texas
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday April 8, 2014
Joey Logano would overcome Mother Nature and a green-white-checkered restart with four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon to win the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Logano, with his trip to Victory Lane Monday afternoon also became the seventh different Sprint Cup driver to win in 2014 in as many races.
Logano, who led a race-high 108 laps on the afternoon, appeared to be on his way to a dominating victory until two laps to go. That’s when Kurt Busch blew a left-rear tire on his No. 41 Chevrolet, spraying debris all over the track.
“When you got like 40-something laps after the last pit stop, you got a pretty sizable lead, really all you’re thinking is, ‘Where is the white flag? Where is the white flag?’” Logano said after the race. “Then, you go into turn one, you see the [No.] 41 up against the wall. You’re like, Please no caution, please no caution. Boom, it comes out. You got to be kidding me. You get so mad you can barely control yourself.”
This incident, the third for Busch on the day would set up a decisive yellow-flag pit stop before the final restart. Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 team then rolled the dice, jumping from sixth to first with only two tires while Logano and his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski would take four. Keselowski, who was second coming in would then get caught speeding while exiting pit road, eliminating him from contention. The Penske Racing driver, after leading 85 laps in his own right dropped to a disappointing 15th on the afternoon.
“That last caution was a shame,” Keselowski said, who lost a chance to become the series’ first two-time winner. “I was just trying to get a little too much on pit road, wanted to get us out front to be able to win the race and tried a little too hard.”
That left Logano dealing with Gordon and Brian Vickers directly in front on the restart. As the cars accelerated, he wasted no time dispatching Vickers for second and set his sights on the bumper of Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet. On the white-flag lap, Logano was able to take advantage of his four fresh tires to get underneath Gordon, clearing him by the exit of Turn 1.
“I mean, coming in sixth, you’re in that position that you can gamble,” said Gordon, who did earn a consolation prize — becoming the Sprint Cup points leader for the first time since the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 (see below). “You’re not going to win it with four tires, you’re not going to win it with none. I knew it was going to be hard to hold those guys off.”
After clearing Gordon, Logano was able to cruise to his fourth career Sprint Cup Series win, his second with Penske in a little over a season with the team. The driver’s confidence is high, stemming from crew chief Todd Gordon whom the 23-year-old was quick to praise after the race.
“He (Todd Gordon) made a last-minute decision to put fuel in it, gave me better balance for what I needed and the guys made the ‘money stop,’” Logano said of the ending. “I was the first guy out with four tires on.”
Behind Logano and Gordon in the top 5 were Kyle Busch in third, followed by Vickers fourth and rookie sensation Kyle Larson in fifth, the only rookie to run inside the top 20. Greg Biffle was sixth, Matt Kenseth seventh, while Clint Bowyer earned his second top-10 result in eighth. Paul Menard earned his fourth top 10 in five races, running ninth while pole sitter Tony Stewart rounded out the top 10.
Monday’s race started in bizarre fashion, under a rare, green-yellow flag condition for ten laps to ensure that the 1.5-mile quad-oval was dry and fit for racing. Jet dryers were still on the track during this period to help the process. Unfortunately, the air from the dryers managed to get inside the wheel wells and affect the hood and roof flaps of several cars. Keselowski’s Ford actually ended up with a damaged hood hinge, resulting in four pit stops during this period for repairs. Many additional cars came down pit road to fix the flaps as well. NASCAR allowed the cars affected to make their stops without penalty, provided that they not add fuel or change tires in the process.
Then, shortly after going green Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s day ended prematurely after just 14 laps when he misjudged his positioning and clipped the grass in Texas’ quad-oval. The miscue resulted in the car digging in, popping a wheelie and shooting the No. 88 Chevrolet straight into a SAFER-less wall, resulting in a fiery crash. Not only did that ruin Earnhardt’s day, but it also impacted the race of Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson. Johnson wound up with windshield damage and a bent left-front corner of his No. 48 Chevrolet. Losing multiple laps for repairs, Johnson ended up 25th on the day while Earnhardt Jr. was scored dead last (43rd).
“You can’t run through there they way they have these cars on the ground,” Earnhardt said of the incident. “Just a mistake on my part. I just didn’t know I was that close to the grass, and made a mistake.”
Kevin Harvick had another fast race car, one capable of going up and taking the lead away from teammate Stewart on Lap 25. However, Harvick’s run of bad luck continued after blowing an engine just a couple of laps later. Harvick ended up 42nd, sitting just 31 points inside the top 30 needed to make the Chase after his win at Phoenix.
A look at the Duck Commander 500 by the numbers. There were 18 lead changes among nine drivers, while seven cautions for 49 laps slowed the pace to 134.191 MPH.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series heads to legendary Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500. The Green flag is scheduled for 6:45 PM ET on Saturday night.
Keselowski - Busch Feud And Other Martinsville Sidebars To Follow
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Monday March 31, 2014
Keselowski, Busch Feud
Two former Penske Racing teammates didn’t play the part Sunday, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch starting a feud that almost kept the latter from Victory Lane. It all started during the competition caution, on Lap 43 when the two cars made contact on pit road. Keselowski claims Busch turned into him, breaking the front suspension on the Miller Lite Ford in an accident that also included Kasey Kahne.
“I started to check up and I just barely got in the back of him and Kurt (Busch) just accelerated and drove through us, absolutely drove through us,” Keselowski said inside the garage. “I tell you what, I’m about tired of his recklessness.”
So Keselowski went back on-track, found Busch’s No. 41 car and promptly slammed into its right side. Trying to flatten tires, it seemed the endeavor ultimately failed but still fired up Busch to the point he started ranting inside the car.
“Welp, guess we’re going to get in a fight afterwards,” Busch said. “I’m going to **** that dude’s ****ing face!”
After that, Busch got focused, starting a drive that would end with him in Victory Lane. Keselowski, meanwhile ran 38th and still remained frustrated after the race.
“Tell him come here. I’m right here,” he said when told Busch was OK with fighting. “He knows where I’m at. Leave Victory Lane and we’ll go.”
“He does awesome things for charity and he’s probably the most talented race car driver, but he’s also one of the dumbest, so put those three together.”
Busch’s response, initially was to downplay the incident. But when pressed in the media center, post-race he finally broke down a bit. Calling the contact by a damaged Keselowski a “punk-ass move,” Busch said he’d be enacting revenge at a time of his choosing.
At press time, Keselowski had calmed down a bit, claiming he wasn’t trying to wreck Busch on Twitter and that the rivalry would not continue into Texas. No penalties from NASCAR, by the way occurred during the race or are expected for either side.
Crafton Claims Rain-Delayed Kroger 250 Victory
Due to Saturday’s complete washout, the Camping World Truck Series held their second race of the season immediately after the Sprint Cup Series’ STP 500 wrapped up. With a 5:30 PM start time, some feared the race would be called early due to darkness. Ultimately, that was not a concern.
In a quick event, Matt Crafton took the lead from local favorite Timothy Peters on Lap 209. From there, Crafton held off the rest of the pack through two green-white-checkered restarts to claim his first career Martinsville grandfather clock.
In the scrum on the final restart, Darrell Wallace, Jr. rose up to second, while rookie Ben Kennedy was third. Johnny Sauter finished fourth while using the front end of his Toyota Tundra in a manner similar to a battering ram. Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-5 finishers.
For more on Sunday’s Camping World Truck Series race, please check out Kelly Crandall’s Tracking the Trucks race recap at Frontstretch.
Tires Fail To Adhere to Track
Goodyear tire engineers stated Sunday that it takes a track temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit in order for their tires to lay down a proper groove in the turns. On Sunday, the track temperature never reached that point during the race. As a result, tire wear was very high on Sunday. Rubber chunks would shear off, early during green-flag runs and gather just outside the racing groove.
Drivers would ask for new tires every 20 laps or so. If there was a caution, nearly the entire field would come in for fresh rubber. There were examples of
“The track conditions today were extremely challenging with the marbles,” said Kenseth, who recovered to run sixth while Stewart wasn’t so lucky (17th). “They just wouldn’t clean them up — I don’t know why. If you had warm tires and you got pushed up in there then you were going to lose 15 spots sometimes — it was that bad.”
If the story sounds familiar to readers, it should. Last Fall, track temperatures struggled to reach 80 degrees through much of the race. However, the tire issues that resulted were not quite as severe.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
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Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Monday July 23, 2007
When it comes to who’s a fan favorite in Nextel Cup, there’s no question Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has always carried the biggest legion of followers to each track the series visits. The winner of the Most Popular Driver contest for four years running, he dominates every vote about the sport that ever seems to take place.
All that might be about to change.
Six weeks after his groundbreaking announcement that he’s not only leaving the company that his father and stepmother built, but moving to the so-called “Evil Empire” of NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, there are cracks beginning to appear in the foundation of the house that is Junior Nation.
Right now, those cracks appear to be subtle in nature, although they’re visible nonetheless. This week, ESPN's online popularity contest known as Who's Now, a completely unscientific poll that pits modern athletes against each other in a bracket style tournament to determine which is the most “now,” paired Earnhardt against Peyton Manning, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, in a round of 16 matchup. This seemed like it would be a very close competition, especially considering the fact that Earnhardt usually wins every online voting contest in which his name appears.
When the final vote was tallied, 70.6% of the over 150,000 votes received were in favor of Manning, while Earnhardt only garnered 29.4%. Forget a nail-biting finish; this vote was a whitewashing. Junior was completely dominated in a contest that would have appeared, on the surface, to have been a perfect opportunity for Junior Nation to come out in force and show the amount of support that they have for their driver. It’s a scenario in which they’ve always come out full force in the past; for Junior to lose badly in so openly advertised a competition is enough to raise a question mark in my book.
Of course, this outcome may just be a blip on the radar screen, a cross-sport poll that shows the vast red army that follows Earnhardt as passionately as the black army that worshiped his father simply doesn't pay attention to ESPN or their gimmicky contest. But this could also be the first glimpse of the ramifications that Junior's decision to go to Hendrick might have on his popularity in the sport. As I’ve noted previously, Junior has been one of the most dominant merchandising players NASCAR has ever seen since he rose into the Cup level full-time in 2000. The sea of red in the stands every week speaks volumes to his popularity with his legion of fans, backing up the throngs of phone and online support which has led to his four consecutive Most Popular Driver trophies. No question about it, six years after his father’s death, Junior has emerged as a marketing force all his own.
A career decision is what’s threatening to change all that in a heartbeat. All of the molding of Junior’s image took place while he was driving for his father’s company, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. It was a safety net for him, a company which has allowed Junior to come into his own while, at the same time, seamlessly carrying on the legacy of the Earnhardt name for a legion of trusting supporters. But things are about to become very, very different. Junior has announced that he will break rank with both history and tradition, moving instead to the organization that embodied everything that both his and his father's core fans appear to have despised.
Junior’s move to the slick, corporate, big city team of Hendrick doesn’t jive with the way most of his fans think. Fielding cars for Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, old-timers see the organization supporting California boys who didn't pay the dues the way Earnhardt's father did on the dirt tracks and bullrings of the Southeast. The majority of those that root for Earnhardt are also ardent non-fans of Gordon, willing to disown their mother or child if they were to root for the No. 1 driver for Hendrick. Such hatred for the Rainbow Warrior became clear by the embarrassing scenes Junior fans have jumpstarted at Talladega. In 2004, several showered the track with debris when Gordon defeated Earnhardt after a questionable caution flag call at the end of the race. Not to be outdone, fans this year repeated the same unruly behavior when Gordon won there over Earnhardt again, doing the unthinkable by surpassing Dale Earnhardt, Sr.‘s all-time victory total in the process. Now, those same fans must stomach the fact the Intimidator’s son is going to be Gordon’s teammate, and – even more despicable in their eyes – his friend.
Such logic of not being loyal to Junior can be understood on some levels…but not all. It’s true that Hendrick Motorsports embodies the new image of NASCAR: very corporate, very politically correct, and most importantly, very successful. The organization has dominated the first third of this season, with Gordon currently leading the points by 303 over his nearest challenger. That’s the point that brings fan’s loyalty into question: if someone truly wants to see their driver succeed and win races and championships, it seems as though there would not be a better place for him to end up at than with the team who’s had the most recent success.
Hendrick has won HALF of the championships decided in the sport in the last 12 years, and 111 races over that time. Add to that another 10 races out of the first 19 this year, and you have to realize that there isn't a better choice to enhance the opportunity to win a championship than Hendrick. Any fan that is serious about wanting to see Junior win that title trophy has to realize that potential. With the best equipment on the track, not only could their man be the most popular in the sport, but he could earn a second distinction as well – most dominant.
Junior hopes all his fans will be able to see that in the end, and only time will tell if they follow through with what they claim. But if this first vote is any indication – as innocent as it may be – there are signs not all of Junior Nation has come to terms with the future.
©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
That was a stupid poll! Even I knew Junior wouldn’t win over Peyton Manning. And no one will win over Tiger Woods! Junior is the most popular RACER. And his true fans will never leave him.
You’re basing this on an ESPN poll? You must be trying Nascar’s version of ‘how things really are’. As long as Junior isn’t sucked into the Hendrick clone machine, his fans don’t care where he drives. His biggst appeal has always been that he has no pretensions. As long as he doesn’t lose that, I can’t see things changing too much.
You need to do a little checking around on numerous message boards and chat rooms to find out just how many people did vote for Jr. and several times for each person, some over a 1,000 times. Everybody in the rooms and boards I have been on find it hard to believe that only a total of 150,000 votes came in in the first place for these two. Espn is a site that mainly caters to stick and ball sports and (stuart is a S.O.B, and I refuse to watch him)ESPN has shown little care for Nascar until now when there getting ready to start covering the next 6 races. I am some what surprised they purchased a contract to carry them at all, and there coverage sucks to say the least. And any fan that would ditch there driver for leaving a sinking ship with a absent owner that lacks alot to be desired was never a fan in the first place….wannabe fans move on and dont come back. Jr. and his nation will be just fine without them, time will reveal this!
I can’t help but laugh at your column. You obviously don’t know Jr fans very well. Sure, there will be a few rats who desert the ship, but the main core of Jr fans will follow him to the ends of the earth. Actually, we are proud that he had the courage to take charge of his life and sign with someone who will supply him with top-notch cars, someone who will respect and support him. As a matter of fact, he is already making new fans because of this move. He will not change who he is, and that is what matters.
So rest easy, Jr fans are strong, faithful, and true to our driver.
No doubt about it! JR. stock is falling, and fast!
Part (or maybe most) of JR.S “charisma” was that he represented the “old school” NASCAR! A country bumpkin made good!
A “TEE” shirt & beer image, now joining the White Collar & Wine congregation!
THAT AIN’T GONNA WORK!
And here’s your sign!!
(oh yes, a few month’s ago a similar poll was held and JR. did womp the others big time! This time his cry-baby image has caught up to him!)
I think comparing Dale Jr. to one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks is like comparing apples to oranges. Sure, there are fans of both sports. I’m a fan of Peyton, but I like Jr. better, because Nascar is my sport. I voted in the ESPN poll, but found it to be pretty boring and felt that it wasted far too much of my time for the java stuff to load. Oh, and Douglas? Crybaby?! Get with it, dude. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a driver with more integrity and honesty than Dale Jr. Douglas, Dale Jr. takes responsibility for accidents that weren’t his fault. I don’t know who your favorite driver is, but I’ll bet he doesn’t do that.
That ESPN poll was nothing more than silly donkey dung! A premiere quarterback ( who won the last Super Bowl) beat a racecar driver! What a shocker!!! What nonsense…Dale Earnhardt, Jr. needed to weed out the low class trashy people who can’t accept the fact that Dale Earnhardt, Sr. is never coming back. Sorry to be so harsh, but that’s the truth. I have gained much admiration for Jr. for putting his driving ability on the line for all to see. He’ll now be in top notch equipment and have all the support and resources he needs to be successful. I think he’ll finally be able to reach his potential and his fans will be right behind him all the way.
I’m not part of the Jr nation of fans, but you must be dreaming if you think his going to HMS is going to cost him any fans, sure some will leave, but he will gain many more, for the first time since I have been reading Jr and other racing boards, the Jr and Gordon fans are getting along, Jr will not only gain better cars to drive, he will also gain fans
Dale Jr. has lots of bandwagon fans who know nothing about NASCAR, act like he’s the only driver on the track, and just like rooting for a famous name and like that they can wear Budweiser merchandise in the process. His real fans will follow him to Hendrick and will root for him regardless of his sponsor. The others will find the next bandwagon to jump on.
What a ridiculous article. That ESPN contest is a joke. Everyone knows who’s going to win. Of course Jr lost to Manning, any driver would lose to a NFL qb that just won the Super Bowl. Racing will never be as big as football but JR will always be the most popular driver. His fans will follow him wherever he goes because he’s a genuine guy and he cares about his fans. I don’t know a single person who’s no longer a JR fan because he left DEI. In fact I think he’s made some more fans because he made a tough decision and did what’s right for his future.
The results of polls like that are too predictable. Considering that ESPN was conducting the poll, I think we as NASCAR fans know that Peyton Manning would win over Dale Earnhardt Jr. It’s the audience to which they are catering. At this time, the ESPN audience does not include as many NASCAR fans proportionally as NFL fans.
The same is said about NASCAR.com polls. In those polls, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ends up on the winning side more than ever. Why? Because he is the most popular driver and the question being asked is pretty much irrelevant.
YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THOSE JEALOUS “NON” FANS OF JUNIOR NATION. WE ARE NOT IN AGREEMENT W/YOU BY ANY MEANS. Try as it may Nascar will never be on the same page as football. There are many more football fans than Nascar. The Mannings are the Mannings, that all I’ll say. Who cares anyway? Any true fan of Junior’s doesn’t care about any poll. Take this to the bank
What a waste of space. It is like pitting a Democrat against a Republican and polling only Democrats and Independents. Junior should gain fans as parents who wouldn’t let their kids wear Bud gear
can now support him.
Please find a little more info to back up your opinion next time. A silly little ESPN poll should not make or break Junior’s fan following. Get a life!
Jeff Gordon has a tremendous following as well but he lost to LeBron James. The sky is not falling. We’re just not used to ESPN giving air time to NASCAR. Me personally, I watch SPEED.
Mike, what a silly column. You know it’s a slow week when you see BS like this. Who cares about a stupid ESPN poll like this. As Jim said, it’s apples & oranges. If you want to have a real poll, why don’t you ask this: Since Jr. announced he’s going to Hendrick & can’t take Bud with him, are you a.) still a Jr fan no matter what, b.) was a Jr fan, but no longer, because he went to Hendrick and/or lost Bud, c.) became a Jr fan since the announcement. Maybe with the results of a poll like that you can have some argument, regarding whether cracks could be forming in the foundation of Junior Nation.
The few cracks that might be forming will fill with new cement in the “nation” foundation when all is said and done. Mark my words!
I think the problem in the poll is that your comparing a average driver to one of the top 3 quarterbacks of all time. All my racing friends all watch football too. If you wanted a real poll as whos better J. Gordon or Payton Manning. That would be alot more even. Anyone who knows anything about sports will have to think about that one.
“…The molding of Juniorâ€™s image took place while he was driving for his fatherâ€™s company…it was a safety net for him…” Seriously? Ha! Obviously the net wasn’t big enough. Wasn’t it Teresa Earnhardt who said that Jr. needed to decide whether he wanted to be a driver or a public personality?
That’s one reason Dale Jr. left DEI, they didn’t like his image. They didn’t understand that it was because of his public personality that he had so many fans. HMS understands. Rick has said he won’t make Dale Jr. change his ways. And, if Jr. does change in any way it’ll be because that’s what he wants to do. He’s maturing.
As for this WHO’S NOW? Poll. That’s ridiculous. I knew Peyton Manning was going to win because…c’mon! He’s freaking Peyton Manning. FYI. I voted for Dale Jr.
Like you said, many NASCAR fans don’t watch Sports Center -so they won’t catch those five minutes of the Who’s Now segment. They won’t waste two hours of their time to get 30 seconds of “COMING UP…WHY DALE JR..blah blah blah…” When it takes the people 20 minutes to get to a non-baseball/football/basketball story. NASCAR Nation usually sticks with something that is all NASCAR, like NASCAR Now or NASCAR Live.
I think JrNation is still strong. Those abandoning ship were never a part of the REAL JrNation to begin with.
You are telling it like it is . Here at work we all moved over to Martin Truex Jr Got new banners and flags and took down Jrs. I know he lost 23 fans here . no telling how many other to.
Junior nation is comprised of Dale Junior fans, and Bud fans. True fans of Dale Junior will support him wherever he drives, and whatever his sponsor is. Bud fans will be unhappy that they are no longer associated with the most popular driver in the sport today. However, however many fans Junior may loose in this new deal, he’ll gain back ten fold!
we love him—not his sponsor- not his number—the guy who tells it like it is and gives his all— the fella who will NOT change into “corporate” Nascar but will continue to be our JR.
What about the Hendrick fans that he is adding to his following. There are a lot of Hendrick fans that will now be wearing Dale Tee shirts.
What a goofy poll. Manning must be the #1 jock commercial whore on TV so that exposure has a lot to do with it. He could not even win a Super Bowl until his owner had the NFL changed to the no hard hitting “No Fun League” that it is now. Manning is a Paper Panty Waste who can’t perform under pressure. He would poop his pants in a COT.
Let me say this. I was at Gateway on Saturday night. I saw lots of Junior gear , lots of Stewart gear, lots of Gordon gear,, yet they were all wearing Office Depot hats. There is fixing to be a new “red army”
Obviously you wrote this article so you would get lots of hits. I dare say that Jr has lost not a single “real” fan. I and many others would follow Jr even if he drove a #13 toyota sponsored by Planters Peanuts. It’s not the car that we “JR NATION” follow it’s the driver.
I’m a die-hard Dale Jr. fan. Have been for years. I didn’t vote in that silly ESPN poll. In fact, I don’t vote in any online polls. They don’t make any difference in the long run.
You want to prove your point here? Watch the next race at Talladega and listen for the reaction Dale Jr. gets. If there are more boos than usual, then you have a case. But basing Dale Jr’s star power on a ESPN poll—a channel that wouldn’t focus on NASCAR unless they were forced to—is just silly.
It’s not about his daddy, or a company, a sponsor or even an number, it’s about the man. I’m a proud member of Jr Nation and will be no matter what the future holds for him. It’s rediculous to say that an ESPN poll is a sign of the fan’s loyaltiies. Put links to this poll on SPEED or NASCAR.com or any other site or sports channel that would reach a large number of NASCAR fans and see what would happen. Not saying Jr would win, but, doubt it would be the landslide that it was.
Pehaps a poll of the above comments will reveal what readers think of your words and the ESPN Poll.
I feel positive that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is not worrying about a loss of popularity.
Just wait until his “new “ merchandise goes on sale !
I’m a Hendrick/Gordon (and forever a #3) fan, and have been for years. The move to Hendrick will attract new fans, I am proof. Say what you want (most journalists do anyways) but Jr nation is growing! Go 24!
Are you kidding me? This poll does nothing to indicate cracks in Jr Nation. What it does show is how far NASCAR still has to go to match the national popularity of football, baseball and basketball. If this poll had been taken 6 months ago the results would have still been the same. As for the rivalry between Gordon and Earnhardt, this gets it’s life from the interaction of the fans stirred by the exaggeratory comments of the media in regards to the rivalry. The truth be known, I am sure both drivers enjoy the on track rivalry but respect and enjoy each others company off of the track. I am sure they look at all of this rivalry hype and just shake their heads.
I give a hoot about Who’s Now!!! Dale Jr. Is the best of them all. ESPN produced a True Movie, about Dale Sr. All Earnhardt’s, said that was not true. If people want to switch drivers, feel free. To me it seems that you were never an Earnhardt fan to start with. I am very proud of what Dale Jr. has done with his life now. I can finally buy my son and myself something without Bud all over it. Anyone calling Jr. a crybaby, should watch the replays.
He is a down to earth person, and one heck of a driver.On another note, try driving for your Step Mom.. C’ya
I am shaking my head at this column. Just because Jr is leaving DEI and Bud doesn’t mean that he is leaving NASCAR. Jr doesn’t care about the popularity, the most votes…what he cares about like every other driver out there is to have a car that he can drive to winners circle after a race and bring home a championship ! Did Sr’s fans desert him when he moved to Ford back to Chevy and the times he changed teams ? NO…there are people that want Jr Nation to crumble but it’s still as strong as ever and will remain the same with him throughout his career.
Dale going to HMS is the best thing for him and DEI. Both Dale and Martin are running a lot better since Dale’s announcement. Gone now are all the distractions with his contract talks with DEI. If fans want to jump ship because of where he is going then so be it. They aren’t really true fans to begin with then. He doesn’t have worry about the stepmother anymore. She never really cared for him that much anyway. The one thing that sticks in my mind is when Ty Norris was let go it seemed that the program at DEI started its downward trend.I will always remain a fan regardless where he goes as I did with Dale Sr.
I didn’t even know there was a pole on ESPN but I vote every day for the Chex Most Popular Driver Award. Junior Nation is just fine & well. His true fans don’t care about what color his car is, what number is on it or what sponsor. We are loyal Junior fans. He could drive the Oscar Meyer Weiner Wagon & we would still be for “THE MAN”. We don’t necessarily have to like his teammates (I certainly don’t) but he wants to win not only for himself but also for his fans and I am damn well one of them.
Cheer me on or Boo me, at least they know I’m here. Know who said that? Dale Earnhardt to a young and upcoming Jeff Gordon.
Get over it people. Bobby Allison once drove for six teams in one year, and was always popular. Dale jr and Bud are not synonymous.
You must be desperate for hits on your site.
ESPN pole. Yeah, right they are noted for being “race“oriented. Try Most Popular Driver voting if you want to gage the true Earnhardt Nation which is probably stronger than ever.
What a waste of space and I can’t believe I took the time to read it.
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