NASCAR Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Earnhardt’s Win Immensely Popular With Fans

If the crowd is a good indicator of what’s going on at a racetrack during a NASCAR event—and I would like to think that they are—then Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win was immensely popular and well-received. Quite unlike a win from Johnson, which isn’t nearly as popular, Earnhardt’s run to the checkered flag was met with a standing ovation from the fans on-site at Pocono Raceway. Everyone already knows how well-known Earnhardt is even outside of the sport, but even the diehard fans seem to be smiling when NASCAR’s most popular driver is doing well.

Might this perhaps be because Earnhardt doesn’t win all that often? Consider the fact that this is the first season Earnhardt has won multiple races since 2004, and he has already won more races this year than his previous seven seasons combined. It’s safe to say that the 39-year-old driver is not a familiar face in victory lane, despite his popularity status.

NASCAR fans are funny that way. They will boo, hiss, and groan at a tried-and-true winner, a champion of the sport, someone who will likely be in the Hall of Fame one day, yet the guy who rarely or occasionally wins a race is met with nothing but applause.

Of course, I know that everyone loves an underdog, but it still tickles me to see fans congratulating Earnhardt on a win when they would be angrily chucking their remote at the television if his teammate Jimmie Johnson had done the same thing.

Ah, but that’s the fans are and, despite the fact that Earnhardt is having one of his best seasons over the past decade, he likely won’t be winning with the frequency of his teammate, which means his wins will be well-received for a long time to come.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win was popular to the spectators, and anyone else who has even just casual knowledge of the sport.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win was popular to the spectators, and anyone else who has even just casual knowledge of the sport.

That is, if he can keep this trend up for longer than one year.

Now, on to the mailbox:

“Heya Summer. Do you know if NASCAR uses the “chase grid” standings or the “driver” standings to line the haulers up in the garage? — Tim

Amy Henderson wrote about this recently, but, to answer your question, the haulers are lined up by team, then by owner points. This wasn’t always the case as the haulers were generally lined up by owner points alone, save last year’s champion. The garage stalls are still lined up by owner points, but the haulers are grouped together much differently.

In terms of the Chase grid, even if NASCAR was lining the haulers up on owner points alone, they wouldn’t use the Chase grid until after the reset in Richmond, in which case those would be the “official” points anyway.

It’s a lot more confusing than it was before, but hopefully that answers your question.

“I know that the ball seems to be being bounced between Penske Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing as far as where Edwards is going but I’m leaning towards Penske, in my opinion. I mean, Edwards obviously really likes Ford, so why not stay in the same camp? He can still win with them, just not at Roush.” — Dexter

Roger Penske has adamantly denied that Edwards might be racing or him next year, saying he has “no interest” in fielding a third car for the Columbia, Missouri native. Those are harsh words, but maybe they also speak to truth of the matter.

In the linked interview, however, I found it interesting that Penske said they didn’t have the sponsorship for a third car. He didn’t say they don’t have the resources, or the space, etc., etc. He said they didn’t have sponsorship. I mean …. well, duh. They’re not going to have sponsorship for a team that currently doesn’t exist, but what if the media savvy Edwards brought one with him? Or perhaps there might be interest from another company.

Edwards' popularity with fans and sponsors might help him find a ride, but apparently not with Penske Racing.
Edwards’ popularity with fans and sponsors might help him find a ride, but apparently not with Penske Racing.

Even then, I believe it when Penske says he has no interest in Edwards, but not for the reasons he said. I find it highly unlikely that Ford Racing would be ok with one Ford team taking a driver from another Ford team. That’s not a move that is going to be popular between manufacturers, especially with a high-profile driver like Edwards. If Edwards is in a Ford team next year, it will be with Roush.

“Hi, Summer, I noticed on the ‘Chase grid’ the TV does after every race still has Hamlin in it. I thought you had to start every race to be in the Chase? Didn’t he miss one this year?”Octavia

Hamlin missed the Fontana race earlier this year because a piece of metal was in his eye, and well, you kind of want to get those types of things taken care of.

However, the rule for the Chase is that a driver has to attempt to qualify for every race. They don’t necessarily have to take the green flag. Hamlin made a qualifying run in Fontana, meaning that he is still eligible for a Chase spot, despite the fact that he missed the actual race. It’s been that way since NASCAR announced the system.

I’m not sure, in all of the hoopla surrounding the new Chase system, how that one bit of information seemed to get lost or misunderstood. I even saw a few times back around the time it happened where it was reported that Hamlin needed a medical exemption for the Chase. He needed no exemption at all considering that he had met the criteria.

Have a question or comment on NASCAR? Email Summer at summer.bedgood@frontstretch.com or Tweet her at @SummerBedgood to earn your chance to appear in this column next week!

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