Today I would like to use this weekly column to send a personal and public “Thank You” to Mr. Robert Yates. You see, his selfless giving of the number 88 to the Hendrick organization for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to use, has actually helped solve many of my own personal problems. Granted, it’s probably not the personal problems my friends and kin would think I should worry about, but they were things that were lingering in a dark corner of my mind and it is good to be rid of them.
While drugs are just one item on a long list of temptations for young men living on their own, traveling all over the country, with money to burn and questions to spare. What if I can’t do the job? Will I lose my ride? How can I get rid of this pressure? There are more questions than answers for these young drivers, and it must be awfully enticing to inhale or ingest a substance that makes those questions go away for a little while. It’s not a wise choice, but it’s available and easy. And at least in part, NASCAR is to blame.
Curtis Turner started out driving well before he was old enough to get a driver’s license. He hailed from the area of Bent Mountain, Va., and as with many who lived in remote regions of the South during this era, Turner worked to export the local product: moonshine. He became as big of a legend running illegal liquor as he did on the track. His ability to outrun Federal agents as well as local law enforcement earned Turner respect for his skill behind the wheel and unlike his counterpart Junior Johnson, Turner was never apprehended by the police. He ran his first race in 1946 in Mt. Airy, N.C. He finished last in a field of 18. In his next start, he won, beginning a legend as the best driver ever to race on dirt.
Tomorrow evening, when the Craftsman Truck Series field takes the green flag for the Smith’s Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, former Formula 1 driver Jacques Villeneuve will make his NASCAR debut in the No. 27 Toyota Tundra for Bill Davis Racing. Villeneuve is scheduled to run the remaining seven races of the truck season as well as the ARCA race at Talladega in an effort to prove to NASCAR that he is worthy of a Nextel Cup ride for the 2008 season.
Today’s Question: Should We Care That Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gets The No. 88 for 2008?
After the cat was let out of the bag last week, Hendrick Motorsports made it official at a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Dallas: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be driving a No. 88 Chevrolet for them in 2008. Primary sponsorship will come from both PepsiCo – through their Mountain Dew and AMP Energy drinks – as well as the National Guard. In the meantime, Casey Mears will move to the No. 5 car with sponsorship from Kellogg’s and CARQUEST, while the No. 25 will no longer be used by Hendrick Motorsports. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Anyone hear about a little press conference that took place yesterday in Dallas? You may not have heard much, as it only involved the sport’s favorite son… plus some new friends from PepsiCo and the National Guard. There was also something about a number, what was it, No. 88? Seriously, I think I speak for the majority of race fans out there, well, the die-hards, anyway, when I say, “Thank you for finally laying everything out on the table!” We can now refocus and move on with the rest of our lives.
Jimmie Johnson – Johnson won both Cup races at Dover in 2002, as well as this event in 2005. He has top-10 finishes in seven of 11 Cup starts here – but has missed the mark the last two times out.
Clint Bowyer’s first career NASCAR Cup win Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway has catapulted the Emporia, Kan. driver into the limelight. His feel-good win came at an opportune time for NASCAR, as the first race in the Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship was otherwise – well, frankly pretty uneventful. But to me, the second-year Cup driver’s win goes to the very essence of what has allowed NASCAR to succeed – it was an all-American winning in what is perceived as an all-American sport.
Clint Bowyer’s win: Flash in the pan, or a statement that he can be a major contender for this year’s title?