The Frontstretch: Who Needs Dale Jr. Anyway? NASCAR Nation for One by S.D. Grady -- Tuesday July 31, 2012

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Who Needs Dale Jr. Anyway? NASCAR Nation for One

Fan's View · S.D. Grady · Tuesday July 31, 2012


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People ran screaming in the streets. Hedges were chopped down, cars repainted from variable shades of red. Entire wardrobes were sent to the donation center, an unexpected Christmas present some thought would never come. It was very nearly the end of the world… or so we thought.

Actually, it was only Dale Earnhardt, Jr. divesting himself of his adored No. 8 as he headed over to Mr. Hendrick’s garage, where the revamped Junior Nation decided green was the new black. And the party continued.

How important is it for NASCAR if Dale Earnhardt, Jr. can take his No. 88 car to the top?

That was 2008. If you visited a track, you would have witnessed the massive cavalcade of media that haunted Junior’s every step — even as he tried to ignore them. His future in NASCAR looked rosy and the world held their breath just waiting for that first Hendrick win, and ultimately the preordained Cup that — as an Earnhardt — would surely come his way. But it never did. Let’s be honest. It never even looked like it could. We held our breath for an awfully long time.

Then the unthinkable happened. NASCAR Nation stopped holding their breath, patience slowly melting into indifference. Oh, not in the kitchens and Dale Jr. chat rooms. At the grassroots level, our most popular driver EVER remained in everyone’s heart. Never did the noise abate when he passed anybody on the track. And when he made it to the front, well, I’ve actually heard the crowd screaming over my headset in the last couple years while I tried to crane my neck to get a glimpse of what’s happening. That kind of adoration is unique and unshakeable.

The NASCAR Nation I’m talking about is the media. The fickle TV, radio, cameras, those like me with a keyboard… all of us. We just sort stopped talking about when the win would happen, if it would, who would help Junior get there… and lo and behold, it did. Now Junior is perched on top of the points standings, a virtual lock for the Chase and driving like, yes, he could actually be the one hoisting the Sprint Cup come November.

Well, if simply changing his number created a huge amount of anxiety and attention for our sport, what would the prodigal’s son arrival at the head table in Las Vegas do?

The heavens would open, trumpets caroling, masses collecting in town squares… exactly what NASCAR has been dying for since about 2002. Once again, seats would start to fill up. Prices for those fancy, schmancy seats would skyrocket. And the noise… noise, noise, noise. Junior Nation would rise up in celebration, all the while drawing the eyes of every casual sport fan across America. New eyes could translate into that youthful fan base the suits have been searching for over the past decade. A broader audience combined with the hopefully improved Car of 2013… think of the possibilities.

There is no doubt, the continuation of Earnhardt Jr.‘s presence at the top of this year’s standings can only be good. Good for him, for NASCAR and every track that hasn’t been able to hide vast stretches of empty stands — where Junior Nation and its rivals used to sit.

Now, I’m not trying to pile the kind of pressure on L’il E that he suffered under in the past. I truly hope no person has to walk through life with a microphone hovering six inches from his face 24/7. But I am being realistic about what it would take to resurrect our struggling sport back to its glory days.

NASCAR needs the No. 88 to win this championship. Hopefully the Dew Crew shares this desire and will bring that much missed celebration to our record books.

There’s no doubt, NASCAR Nation needs it!


What NASCAR does not need is appearing arbitrary in the enforcement on their own rule book. Nothing hurt their image more than throwing the black flag on Elliott Sadler in Saturday’s Nationwide race after failing to do so to Kyle Busch on the opening lap.

While the officials may be holding up the letter of the law, insisting Sadler clearly passed a wobbling Keselowski, this case is one where what the NASCAR fans saw will override anybody’s myopic interpretation of the facts, no matter how correct they might be. Consistency has long been the mantra of the head office. Mr. France needs to make sure that’s what NASCAR is presenting to the fan who is holding the money for their next ticket hostage.

Sonya’s Weekly Danica Stat
Indianapolis: NNS in the No. 7 Chevrolet
Qualified: 20th
Finished: 35th (DNF, crash lap 38)
Points Position: 10th

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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Stephen Hood
07/31/2012 06:49 AM

I don’t care if Junior wins a championship. If he pulls one off, great. What I want from Junior each year is relevancy. I want him to win a few races or at least give the winner a run for his or her money. Watching the 88 fade from 11th to 19th race after race was painful. Now we are witnessing the 88 improve from 11th to 6th or 8th to 4th. Junior doesn’t need a championship to be interesting. I only need a season like this one where at the end of the day, the car has run well, improved its position, and outrun two or three of his teammates. Stewart and Johnson can trade the titles back and forth. Meanwhile, Busch and Edwards will continue to fumble it each year because they listen to their own hype. Harvick or Kenseth may sneak in and steal one and Keselowski may be the next golden boy. As for Junior, win some races, knock off consistent top 5s and 10s, finish 4th in the points, and I’ll keep buying tickets.

KY Boy
07/31/2012 07:13 AM

Hey overhated, whos the points leader? Guess hes been running good enough to damn near shut you up. lol. Come on, tell us how its all a conspiracy! I miss seing ur dumba$$ comments. where u at JD

07/31/2012 01:48 PM

I’ll take him, or ANYBODY else, over the 48.

07/31/2012 03:05 PM

Lets remember He never asked for all the hype (nascar did) …He’s been living an impossible life & I have heard him say on MANY occasions “Hey why ya’ll wasting your time talking to the 18th place guy you should be over talking to the leaders” …So it’s not him ….For those who say he can’t drive …Well if every week your one of those 43 drivers you have to be VERY talented to do that (maybe not hornish) ..jus Sayin if you can finish 23rd with these guys …Ya got something special & I’ll also take any one over the 48…Jus don’t think it’s what Nascar needs right now …& By the way JR has done an unbelievable job for Nascar between 2000-2007 While racing for a B to C team …Give the guy a break & use your heads….Go Tony

Kevin in SoCal
07/31/2012 04:09 PM

The hype-machine media and the unwashed masses of Junior fans like to promote that he is now leading the points, but the truth is he didnt take over the points lead. He got it when Matt Kenseth got in a crash and finished 35th. Nothing special about that in my opinion. The truth will come after this weeks race.

KY Boy
07/31/2012 06:39 PM

@ Kevin. How the hell is beating a guy at the end of a race not taking the points lead? I know some Jr fans take it a little too far from time to time, but damn, the haters are far far worse with the crap just like what you just wrote! Thats the stupidest thing I have ever heard. If he crashes next week and Kenseth takes it back, then he took it. Some people aren’t true race fans. I, as an Earnhardt fan since 1990 at the age of 16, cannot root for Kyle Busch, its written in the bible I think lol, but I will say that he is a hell of a driver and I do like things he does for kids and charity away from the track. I don’t hate any driver out there. I think they all deserve respect. Did I wanna see JJ win the brickyard again? no, but I respect him and what he has done the last few years is remarkable. I guess Im just a true fan of racing in general. To blow off the accomplishments of a guy that has worked his a$$ of through some bad times like Jr has is just being an a$$. JMHO

Kevin in SoCal
07/31/2012 07:17 PM

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards at Homestead is beating a guy at the end of a race. Taking the points lead because the other guy got in an accident is not beating him, thats just taking advantage of his bad luck.

KY Boy
07/31/2012 07:38 PM

LOL Keep believing that. Whoever finishes higher at the checkered beat the other guy

07/31/2012 09:24 PM

Earth to KY Boy…Earth to KY BOY, FYI when the 10 race Do-Over starts in Chicagoland, Poor JuneBug will only be in 5th place at best. So enjoy your delusional ‘AMP’ high while you can. A championship ain’t going to happen. BTW, KY Boy I got 2 more Jr. and a Princess Sparkle Pony die cast signed at Indy last fri. Got to take advanatge you Jr. Nation Suckers while I can and make some $$$ off the Earnhardt name like Ralphie does.

KY Boy
08/01/2012 07:09 AM

Lmao Your not makin $hit off me bro. Bought a hat off his hauler at KY and thats all I’ve got this year. I didnt say a championship is coming, but you said at the start of the season how bad he was gonna be this year. Cant mouth off about a win now, so u gotta start talkin about the Chase. Your ammo is running low ole buddy. If I hadnt called you out you wouldnt have typed a word, which is so funny. I know you really love him, thats why you get his autograph every chance you get. Your not selling them, you probably got a room full of his stuff, get real.I think he’ll get another win, but I dont know if it will be before the chase. JJ is rolling now and I dont know if anybody can beat him. Good to hear you spew your venom again, I missed ya!!!!! GO 88

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