Scott Novak: Is it time for Junior to move on?Published 7:29pm Thursday, August 5, 2010
Is it time to send Dale Earnhardt Jr. packing?
After some early success with his new team, Earnhardt has really done nothing. He stole a race victory at Michigan on fuel millage, but outside of that the results have been pitiful.
He continues to be the sport’s most popular driver, but we all know that doesn’t translate into victories.
His sponsors seem to love him, but for how much longer? Sponsors want to see their name on the side of a car that is at the front of the pack, not running in the back.
They also want to see their car in the Chase because as we all know, television could care less about the cars outside the top 12 once the Chase begins.
I really wanted this to work out. So did everyone else in the sport because the Earnhardt name still carries a lot of weight in NASCAR.
But it just hasn’t.
They have switched around a lot of parts on the No. 88 team, including several crew chiefs and nothing has worked.
I said when Junior was looking for a new team that he should go with Childress Racing.
I still believe that was the best fit for him despite the fact that he would be constantly in the shadow of his late father there.
Perhaps Junior needs to do a little more double duty like a lot of the other drivers. He showed at Daytona last month that he still knows how to drive a stock car to the front and win a race at least in the Nationwide Series.
Another possibility is putting his own team in the Sprint Cup Series.
The car he won with at Daytona last month was a collaboration between his own team at JR Motorsports, Childress Racing and DEI.
If he put his own product on the track, perhaps there would be a bit more focus and a bit more urgency to win.
I really don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that Hendrick Motorsports is about winning and let’s face it; Junior is the weak link there.
Just look at the results from Sunday’s race at Pocono.
Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson also finished in the Top 10.
Where was Junior? He was 27th a lap down.
It just doesn’t make sense to keep him at Hendrick if he cannot win and he cannot make the chase.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a Junior fan. But I cannot watch him sputter at the race track each week and see drivers with far less talent finish ahead of him.
Maybe his critics are right. Maybe he has too many interests outside of racing the No. 88 that keep him from completely focusing on the task at hand.
I am not going to say that he needs to forgot all those things because he is smart enough to know he needs to build for a future beyond NASCAR and he is doing just that.
I have said for quite some time now that he would win a championship as an owner before he ever won one as a driver.
I stick by that statement.
Scott Novak is sports editor of Leader Publications. He can be reached at email@example.com