The Frontstretch: Keep Booing Junior... He's Not Hearing You by Thomas Bowles -- Sunday August 20, 2006

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Keep Booing Junior... He's Not Hearing You

Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Sunday August 20, 2006


The surprise of the weekend at Michigan International Speedway was a sound so ridiculously out of place during driver introductions, some fans actually looked around to see if someone was doing something stupid on the track rather than directing their emotions to the famous wheelman passing through the center of the stage. Surely, it seemed, the situation was nothing more than a ridiculous dream, the type where you end up doing something you could never accomplish in real life and then you wake up and go, "Well, it would have never happened anyway."

But this Sunday afternoon at the Irish Hills, that impossible dream did happen. No kidding…Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got booed.

Now, if it were any other driver in this situation, the reaction was somewhat understandable. Junior was less than 24 hours removed from scoring, arguably, the most controversial win of his career, turning the back bumper of Carl Edwards' Ford on the straightaway, no less, in order to win his second Busch race of the season. It's a move that would have made his father proud… the exact type of move his son has never seemed to embrace.

Remaining consistent in distancing himself from such things throughout his postrace comments that day, Junior was adamant. He would never intentionally wreck someone, not even a man like Edwards who happened to have cost the No. 8 team a shot at the championship by wrecking Junior late in the Atlanta race back in 2004. The fans weren't buying it, though; neither was the replay, which clearly showed Junior hit Edwards not once but twice, finishing off a ride for Edwards that wouldn't end until he hit the inside wall. So, there he was, Junior held accountable for a rare crime he hardly ever commits, but one he committed nonetheless. It also didn't help that the guy he tore up happens to be perceived, whether or not it's actually true, as the nicest driver ever to step foot in the sport.

Still, despite the controversy, let's not forget… this was Junior. We're talking eager to please, NASCAR's Most Popular Driver, guy you'd most like to invite out for a beer Junior. Surely, it would take just one night for the fans to forget what had happened, and by Sunday morning, they'd be cheering them as loudly as ever.

Guess not. Instead, the reaction continued to be negative, a type of negativity that could easily affect a driver about to go out and fight for the final spot in the Chase at a place where he had never finished in the Top 5 until the race here this past June. Oh, and that's not to mention his biggest challenger for that 10th and final spot, Kasey Kahne, who won the last race held at the track.

Surely, fan reaction had to have Junior on edge, right?

"People will form an opinion (on the incident), think what they want to think about it," said Junior on Sunday prior to the race.

Just like that, case closed. No biggie; boos from the fans, two meetings with NASCAR officials and Edwards about the incident, and constant questions about it Saturday and Sunday; none of that fazed him. Junior got in the car, drove it to the front, fought back from another controversy, a pit road mistake by his crew that put him all the way back to 20th late in the race, and eventually finished in 6th.

What's the lesson here? Simply not to ever underestimate the power of an attitude adjustment. It's these small moments that allow for deeper observation into just how much someone like Junior has changed.

And what an adjustment it is, especially for a man who last year who didn't need much to happen during a race weekend to leave with his head down and his team in disarray. After years of figuring things out, last year Junior appeared to go through a growing up stage, with decisions like the D.E.I. crew swap a clear expression of his desire to put his own stamp on an organization through which he has increasingly realized he is the centerpiece. Only thing is, those decisions didn't work out, and Junior seemed unsure about how to handle it, unable to figure out how to rectify the problem until his season was well beyond saving.

This year, it's a bit of a different story. Coming up on 32 years old, now five years past the death that will never fade, Junior is finally showing signs of taking full control of all that surrounds him. The past few months more than any other have seen decisions that show a marked leap of maturity. Not only has Junior acquired his own name, but he had the guts and the resolve to fire one of his good friends, Mark McFarland, from his own Busch team, replacing him with Shane Huffman, a driver that he claimed could get more "emotional."

“I just expected [McFarland] to have more of a killer instinct to him,” said Earnhardt, Jr. at the time. “I feel like he’s well capable behind the wheel, but that doesn’t always cut it."

Strong words from someone who, a few years back, seemed more concerned with whether or not he'd step on the wrong toe and make someone mad. Now, Junior is becoming a leader, capable of not only running his own team but steering the ship of his own life.

Which brings us back to the boos. The Earnhardt legend combined with a laid back persona has made Junior one of the most marketable personalities that the sport will come across in the next 50 years. That marketability will never go away. But in the midst of all this appreciation is developing a man with opinions, along with a driving style all his own apart from his dad that, while tamer, will occasionally ruffle feathers in its own way in order to get his point across. That ruffling causes controversy, strong opinions causing universal appreciation to break down into the side that likes you for who you are, and the side that liked you for who you were perceived to be. Just like the fallout that happens in all sorts of different situations, like Dale Jarrett's move to Toyota, for example, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will eventually lose some fans as he goes through this maturation process. He happened to get a bunch mad in one full swoop, but over time it was bound to happen. People change, and fans don't always change with their drivers.

Yes, the boos may have reigned down Sunday, but the new Junior appeared unfazed. Maybe this is the attitude adjustment he's always needed to get over the hump to the next step in his career.

Thirteen races left to wait and see.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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08/21/2006 12:34 AM


08/21/2006 04:24 AM

I understand that he road with Kurt Busch during driver introductions on Sunday, hense the boos. I also understand that on Saturday, from fans that were at Saturday’s race, that many of the boos were for Carl when the jumbo TV’s continued to show replays of the incident during the victory celebration. I also understand that Carl was booed during introductions on Sunday. What say?

08/21/2006 05:52 AM

He hears them.

Richard Irion
08/21/2006 06:03 AM

Earnhardt has no need to worry about the booing because he has no fear of being punished by NASCAR. If Kurt Bush had of turned Jr. the way Jr. turned Edwards the fines and suspensions would have been vast. However Jr. and Stewart are pretty much free to do as they wish. That comes from the fact that they do put so many people in the seats. NASCAR has two sets of rules and on Saturday that was apparent.

08/21/2006 06:04 AM

He shouldn’t listen..he is not out there to make sure everyone likes him. He is out there to win races. Ask Carl..who did the same thing to him few years ago. His father never cared what everyone thought and neither should he!

08/21/2006 06:15 AM

It’s killing Junior. It’s going to get in his head and eat at him till he doesn’t make the chase. The boos were for him and only him and he knows it!

08/21/2006 06:32 AM

I don’t know what all the hoopla is about. If the situation were reversed, Carl would have done the same thing. I’m sure the boo’s do bother Jr. alittle, but he’ll get over it and move on and so should Carl.

08/21/2006 07:25 AM

Just a note…Mark Martin is the nicest guy ever in this sport. Period. Carl will never hold a candle to him. And on that note, I’ve heard that Carl had a lot of “choice” words come out of his mouth Saturday in victory lane, and he always seems to try to give a payback in a place he shouldn’t. Real nice guy I tell ya.

08/21/2006 07:28 AM

Earnhardt, Gordon, and Edwards were all racing full throttle for the win on the last lap. Edwards got loose and slid up the track in front of Jr. at somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 mph. Yes, Earnhardt hit Edwards’ rear bumper and sent him spinning through the grass. Slamming on the brakes at that speed is not an option. It was just one of those things that sometimes happen on a race track when cars are running close together at high speed.

It was a “racin deal”. Get over it. Would you be booing if the roles were reversed and Edwards had been the one to wreck Earnhardt?
Why would you think that NASCAR wouldn’t have punished Junior if they thought that it was his fault? They sure didn’t hesitate to throw the book at him when he said”s—t” on television.

08/21/2006 07:35 AM

It isn’t like Jr was the first person this season to hit and run to take a win. Carl Edwards tries to come off as the choir boy of NASCAR when it is known that he isn’t. Funny how all those boo’s turned to standing cheers when Jr took the lead yesterday…

08/21/2006 07:48 AM

Rationalize all you want about the fan boos at the track. One point that is becoming clearly evident is that what the fans think is of NO CONCERN to anyone at Nascar.

Nascar is a business to make as much money as possible. They could care less what you think. However, they will gladly take your money with a smile.

It’s not about racing anymore folks!

08/21/2006 08:18 AM

I want anyone who has an opinion on this to closely view the replay of this incident from Jr.’s in-car. It clearly shows Edwards’ rear end twitch back and forth near the exit of 2 indicating a loose condition (which Jr. thought happened). You get loose, you loose speed period.

The fact of the matter is that Edwards got loose (ran out of talent maybe) and THAT IS EXACTLY why Jr. hit him. Jr. was dead in it and Edwards wasn’t because he got loose. This is the fact that everyone seems to be missing (or more likely ignoring it for the sake of the drama).

Jr. would never put someone else in harms way for the sake of winning a race. Those of you who think so suffer from severe idiocy.

What Edwards did after the race, on the track, is what needs to be addressed….more so than what happened in Victory Lane. Those actions were absurd. Especially when you consider some of the tricks Edwards himself has pulled ultimately wrecking others.

Do as I say not as I do…...heh Edwards?

08/21/2006 08:31 AM

Jr. did show some class in dealing with the confrontation with Edwards.

How Edwards dealt with what happened does need to be addressed and I’m positive Nascar will respond with some penalties.

Edwards would be wise to heed the advise he was generously given by Jr. to not let these types of incidents get to him so much and to let it go.

What Jr. did Saturday was definitely an exception to his typical style of racing. Personally, I will always enjoy good hard racing the likes of what we saw with Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon over what we saw with Jr. and Edwards any day!

M. B. Voelker
08/21/2006 08:55 AM

I divide the blame for the incident 50-50.

Carl was in a bad position being loose and having to check up or wreck himself. Jr. had the choice to let off or not. He chose not to because it was the last lap.

In one way I want to see Jr. blasted for wrecking Carl—because people are STILL blasting Kurt for bumping Kenseth for the Bristol win even though Kenseth didn’t wreck.

But its not really fair to Jr., who might not have been able to prevent the wreck anyway—at least not without wrecking himself instead. Though it must be remembered that he could have lifted and chose not to.

Mainly, I wanted to see Robby awarded the win because he was in front of Jr. by a good fender’s length before Jr. turned Carl across his nose.

08/21/2006 09:02 AM

i have no idea why Dale Jr fans would boo him after something like that… if you are gonna boo someone for doing something ONCE that he never does.. i dont think thats the makings of a true fan. im a huge dale jr fan and i will never boo him even if he does something wrong. i dont think most of the rock solid dale jr fan will either and the ones who think they are rock solid and booed him better check again.

08/21/2006 09:03 AM

I was at the race and I witnessed the impossible, people, even people dress in red booing Junior. At first I thought they were booing Edwards then I realized it was Junior. I think I was the only one cheering for Junior, simply because I don’t like Edwards. Thanks Junior for a great ending.

08/21/2006 09:10 AM

And if the roles were reversed you know Carl would have hit the brakes and let Junior regain his car… Since in the past Carl has been so understanding of other drivers and NEVER has caused anyone else to wreck. Can you smell the sarcasm?

08/21/2006 09:25 AM

And let’s not forget Mears was coming hard and fast into the mix. I know Jr did bump Carl, but let’s face facts, Carl is the master of hitting another car and getting position. Just ask the multitude of drivers he’s helped get out of the way. I seem to recall Kyle Petty coming to Carl after Bristol and having a chat after Carl helped move them

08/21/2006 09:43 AM

What everyone forgets is that NASCAR has never (usually) awarded fines for the “initial contact” unless “blatantly dangerous”. If there is any kind of “judgement” to the call on whether it was intentional or not they usually back off. However, they have almost ALWAYS stepped in on “retaliation”. So Jr won’t be fined because it was a judgement call whether he did anything wrong, but what Carl did was retaliation and WILL be fined/punished. I don’t get where everyone thinks NASCAR is so unfair…anyone still go to local short tracks? (Talk about unfair calls!!)

08/21/2006 09:54 AM

Junior bumped him once and didn’t lift, and bumped him again which took him out. He could have lifted but chose not to. I don’t think it was necessarily intentional, but it was avoidable.

The problem I have is all of the people who are making the statement that it was a move his Deddy would have been proud of. Deddy didn’t do anything of the sort on a high speed track like Michigan. Bristol, you bet. Martinsville, sure. North Wilkesboro, any day. But Michigan, no way. He would not take someone out on a high speed track because of the greatly increased potential for disaster. I think Deddy would have had a stern talking with the boy about when and where you spin someone, and Michigan is not one of those places.

08/21/2006 09:56 AM

Its clear to me that the booing was not directed toward Jr to begin with. If you watched on tv, the boo’s began when they interviewed Carl, and that interview was shown on the jumbotron. It was Carl getting booed by Jr fans for hitting him after the race. Simple. But I think Carl had every right to be upset with Earnhardt. He hit him twice, not once. Funny how on Sunday, Jr got the “Good Hands” award for avoiding a slow car that passed across the nose of his car. Jr had to slow down DRAMATICALLY to avoid that guy, but he didnt let off for Carl. In fact, he made sure not to back off because he hit him 2 times to finish him off.

Gene Sykes
08/21/2006 09:58 AM

No, he is not hearing it and neither is Nascar.Junior and Jeff Gor-don as he now is called can get away with anything.The rules that apply to others aren’t the same for them.He could have killed Carl and Nascar is more concerned about what happen after the wreck.Life must not be important to them at all,just Junior.

08/21/2006 10:01 AM

My, if Junior fans were booing him, then they’re either not true fans or idiots. Unreal! Carl would, and has done the same thing. I don’t like Carl but I actually felt sorry for him. He does need to settle down some but at least Junior didn’t escalate the whole thing and provoke him into making an even bigger a** of himself than he already had. Hey all I’ll say to Junior is, I’ll be cheering first place, last place whatever, and to those who booed what a racer does, well you might want to switch sports because that’s pretty pathetic. And to all you armchair NASCAR guys, come back when you’ve actually driven a car 200 MPH in traffic and tell me how you’d do it. Don’t forget, you only have a split second to decide AND then you’ll have to listen to all the chair jockeys second guess you. Have fun!

08/21/2006 10:32 AM

Dale Sr. once said ‘If you get booed on Sunday, you go to the bank on Monday’. I am paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

08/21/2006 11:02 AM

It was a racin deal pure and simple. Carl would have done the same thing if he was in Junior’s place. Two laps to go, its time to go! Junior got booed because it was percieved as an intentional punt. But if Carl had not gotten loose, I think things would have been different. Also, on Sunday, when Junior passed Carl for the lead, the crowd cheered. Carl needs to calm down a bit. Yeah, he should have been mad. But Jr isnt in the practice of wrecking people. He is much too clean of a racer. In fact too clean. With two laps to go, politeness goes out the window. It was good racing. Carl needs anger management.

08/21/2006 11:17 AM

To those who think DE Sr. would never bump some one at a high speed track they should talk to Rusty Wallace about the time he went barrel rolling at Daytona or Bill Elliott at Charlotte. All of the drivers today need to take a lesson from those like Petty and Pearson. They used to wreck each other until they came up with an agreement among themselves that if your front bumper is not up to the window of the car you are passing you don’t bump. That used to be what NASCAR looked for but not any more.

08/21/2006 11:21 AM

Go Jr!!! The #8 Rules!!! Get far enough ahead of the car behind you and they can’t bump you, if not, QUIT WHINNING about it!!!

08/21/2006 12:06 PM

Although this was not even on Jr’s mind I have to bring up 2004 again to all those against Jr.; October’04, Jr. is in the run for the championship, Edwards is a rookie, Jr passes Edwards and slides up in front of him on the backstrech. Does Edwards lift ? No, he turns Jr. around and takes him out of contention for the Cup. Since that day I have no respect for Edwards and never will. Saturday was a racin deal, just because Edwards is loose Jr. should back off and lose the race ? Don’t think so. Plus this was a Busch race, they run those for fun. Had this been on Sunday with a pts contender, Jr. might give them more slack, though I would hope that he wouldn’t. Jr. needs to toughen up a bit in my opinion, maybe this is a new beginning. GO 8 !

leo epp
08/21/2006 12:16 PM

carl does JESSE JAMES country proud. missouri boys can feud with the best!

08/21/2006 12:30 PM

Fact: Edwards got loose. Fact: Junior hit him. Fact: NASCAR has always adhered to an “anything goes” rule for the last lap. Look at history: Jeff Gordon dumps Rusty Wallace at Bristol. Jeff Gordon dumps Matt Kenseth at Chicago. Jeff Gordon nearly runs Jeff Burton into the INSIDE wall at Darlington, NASCAR widest track. (See a pattern here?) If Jeff Gordon can cause at least three wrecks on the last lap of races and come out smelling like roses, why can’t something that was clearly a result of Edwards getting loose and Junior refusing to back off because it was the last lap appear just as innocent? Junior will always be under the microscope and everything he does will be magnified, in part for what he has done on the track but mstly because of what his father did before him. Win or lose, he will be scrutinized more than any other driver.

08/21/2006 01:23 PM

Edwards has a right to be upset, just as he had a right to be upset at Pocono. However, being rightfully upset does NOT give him an excuse to put people in harm’s way. Exacting revenge by spinning Stewart on pit road and hitting Jr. while his arm was holding on to the A-post AFTER the race was complete could have had disastrous results. The actions of Stewart and Jr., while maybe not the brightest of moves, were in the heat of battle. Edwards’ retaliations were calculated, and could have seriously hurt several people. For that, he should be punished harshly. I like Edwards, but I think NASCAR needs to send a message that putting drivers, crew members, and it’s own officials in harms way to settle a score will absolutely NOT be tolerated.

08/21/2006 01:54 PM

Dale Jr should have dented his nose when he came into Victory Cirle, the “old man” would have!!!

08/21/2006 02:14 PM

lol…there it is, someone trying to deflect this away from jr onto jeff gordon….i knew that was coming

jo smelser
08/21/2006 02:32 PM

i am a no.#1 fan of jr. always have been and always will be!!!
carl should have the hammer come down on him hard, from nascar. not for being mad but for what he did!!! three things…. hitting jr. on the track, going to victory lane and grabing jr. fire suit… to bad jr. is such a nice guy, i would have flored him!!! go jr.!!!!

08/21/2006 02:35 PM

lots of non facts in these posts…...gordon didnt dump kenseth on the last lap he had four left and could have passed cleanly. jr was the one responible for the wreck at atlanta, not carl. jr was passing carl and he came back up to soon. he was not clfear and as he was the one passing….it was his responsiblity. edwards couldnt have checked up if he wanted to. sdo to those saying jr was just paying him back….BS. lastly….everyone of you defending jr….i want to see you here defending the next driver that punts junior with two to go

08/21/2006 02:57 PM

Posted by Randy: You get loose, you loose (sic) speed period.

So, if you are a professional racecar driver driving behind a car that is pretty much guaranteed to lose speed, wouldn’t you try to avoid that car? Dale had plenty of time to lift, and decided not to. I, for one, don’t fault him for doing what he did, but I don’t agree with all these arguments that he had no other option. I think it’s clear that he made the decision to not lift knowing it would help him win, but would wreck Edwards in the process.

08/21/2006 03:51 PM

“I’m just so glad to be here” the new JAWS

08/21/2006 08:24 PM

NASCAR’s come a long way. It seems to me that the #3 car was extremely good at the tap and go and that moves like those are a part of racing lore. If NACSAR lillies out on all of this talk, group hugs will be required after the race. Stewart’s right…Edwards should change his name to Haskall. No one seemed too excited at Atlanta when the tables were turned. Didn’t Edwards say something broke in the car.

08/21/2006 08:47 PM

I am liking Carl Edwards more and more as the year goes on. Now if only he would follow up with a good butt whippin of [sic] Tony. And Golden Boy 8 wants no part of Carl. Wouldn’t even be a fair fight.

08/21/2006 11:09 PM

Well I must say it has been entertaining to read these ‘views’ of what happened. What I take from them is that 99% of you fans watched with your emotions and 1% with your eyes. NASCAR runs a business and deals in facts and rules not emotions. If you all were really honest you would admit that if your favorite driver was in the same position as Dale Jr. in Saturday’s race, your favorite driver would NOT have lifted, he would have done the same as Dale Jr.
The object of the race is to WIN and you don’t win by lifting and letting others get ahead of you. You all are seeing Dale Jr. starting to grow up and take his racing career seriously. I’m sure Dale Jr. heard the boo’s but as he said,
“The fans will make up their own minds on what happened and nothing he said would change them.” I think he is correct. As for Carl Edwards – he needs to stop whining and take his loss like a man, after all he has hit several out of his way since he came to NASCAR.

08/22/2006 07:47 AM

Carl is no angel,and if he was going faster Dale Jr would not have got to his bumper. Too bad rubbing is racing.

08/22/2006 12:27 PM

The only thing I don’t like is this new way of thinking that when the guy ahead of you slows it’s ok to keep your foot in it. That folks is a dangerous game. I recall Jr. ripping on Blaney a little bit when Blaney bumped him at California. People that gas pedal has a hinge on it for a reason. I don’t care who is involved that is a rotten way to race. And whoever said Jr. hit Edwards bumper twice was right on. Watch the replay.

08/22/2006 03:45 PM

For those of you who say “Anything goes on the last lap” need to realize this wasn’t on the last lap…they had yet to take the white flag. At Bristol or Martinsville, I can see doing something like that to get by with a few laps to go, but this was a BIG, HIGH-SPEED track…plenty of time yet to back off, and try again to get around Carl.

Jr apologized to Carl, that’s fine, but how bad would Jr feel right now if Carl were in the hospital for injuries received when he barrel-rolled down the backstretch??? No-one seems to think about that, but watch the replays: Carl was a HAIR from barrel-rolling…and possibly injuring more than his hand.

08/22/2006 07:05 PM

Thank you to everybody who remembers Atlanta in 2004. Edwards clearly caused the wreck that took Jr. out, despite what revisionist historian jo smelser would have us believe. The most important thing to remember about that race was that Jr. didn’t have a bad thing to say to Edwards about it afterward. Even though it wrecked his shot at a first championship, you didn’t see Jr. going ape. He chalked it up to Edwards’ inexperience and praised the team that gave him a great race car.

08/22/2006 08:35 PM

Isn’t is amazing that when BudBoy happens to do a spin for the win on someone its a racin deal, or rubbin is racin, or its OK not to lift for a slower car. But when Gordon does exactly the same thing, the world is coming to an end. If its good for one its good for both. Isnt a thing different between the 2 incidents.

08/22/2006 09:49 PM

You say that Earnhardt Jr “chalked it up to Edwards’ inexperience…” So what was Earnhardt’s excuse on Saturday?

08/23/2006 10:45 AM

did gordon get boo’d for turning kenseth at chicago? did he get punished.. the answer is yes.. and no.
case closed.. and if you ask me what the 24 did in chicago was NOT a racing deal.. he could have passed to either side, he CHOSE to go through the 17.
had to laugh that the MIS race came down to the 17 and the 24.. again. would have been funny to see a replay of chicago.. then who would be booing??

08/23/2006 03:53 PM



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