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Pedley: Junior Is Just Never Going To Be Senior

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, April 8 2011

Kevin Harvick was dogged by Dale Earnhardt Jr. late in the race at Martinsville – but never bumped out of the way. Just not Junior's style, he said. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

As much as many fans want Dale Earnhardt Jr. to be Dale Earnhardt Sr., it has become quite clear that that is not in the offing.

There has never been any evidence that the son possessed the same qualities in a Sprint Cup car as the did the father and it has been increasingly clear over the years that no evidence ever will surface.

That doesn’t mean that Earnhardt Jr. will not win a hefty share of races between now and when he decides to retire. And it certainly should not cause fans – even fans of his father – to tank their respect for Junior.

Junior is just not as intense as Senior in a race car. To be sure, Junior wants to win races and championships every bit as much as his seven-time champion father did, but he is not willing to go to the boundless – or he might consider, unethical – lengths to secure those things.

That showed again last weekend at Martinsville when Junior, with a shot at victory late in the race, opted not to send eventual winner Kevin Harvick into the wall just to get the victory.

That is, he opted not to do it the way dad did it many times during his career.

On Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, Earnhardt Jr. was asked why.

“Well, I don’t think that would have been the right thing to do,” he said. “And I wouldn’t

The late pass of their driver disappointed Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tami Kelly Pope)

want anybody to do that to me just to take me completely out of the race, under any circumstances. And I don’t have a history of doing that.”

That attitude got Junior toasted by some fans and media on the web this week. Toasted as in ripped for, well, not being Senior.

“It’s real easy to say that on the internet,” Earnhardt said. “I mean really, on the internet it’s easy to say a lot of things.  But everybody knows how I race and I try to race respectful and I want the same in return. And if it’s near the end of the race, I expect to run hard and be aggressive; I expect the guys to race me hard and be aggressive and I think that’s kinda what went down this past weekend.”

Junior was pressed on the issue at Texas. He remained loyal to his ideals. He laid them out clearly and precisely.

“Well, I didn’t want to take him out under any circumstances,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t take out drivers or wreck people on purpose. I wanted to race him hard and I tried to get into him but he didn’t even have much of a bumper to get in to, you know? So when I ran into him, it was like a pillow fight. There wasn’t much to it. He just drove off the nose of my car and went about his way.”

The impression of Earnhardt Sr. was that the man was hard as titanium. That nothing bothered him emotionally, physically and certainly when all that pertained to the pursuit of a victory.

But I remember the look on his face when he got out of his car after shoving Terry Labonte out of his way to get a victory at Bristol a decade ago. He attempted to keep the disinterested look in place as the Bristol fans booed him long and loud.

But after a few very uncomfortable moments, you could see the Intimidator wince. And then squirm a bit.

It was not weakness showing through, it was humanness.

Junior is human as well. That side of him comes through much more often and much more obviously than it did with his father.

Some fans and media don’t like it. Some consider it, if not a character flaw, then a competitive flaw.

But, there it is. Deal with it how you must.

Me, I like there to be a difference between racing machines and the people who drive them. And I think sportsmanship still has a place in sports.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, April 8 2011
8 Comments

8 Comments »

  • Overra88ted says:

    Stevie Wonder… are you Blind? It’s funny how delusional fans like you are suckered by countless mindless articles about and an overhyped, under achieving, average driver. I don’t post anything that isn’t true and can’t defend. Jr. Nation Hypoctites like you are obviously envious of posts questioning Dale Jr., because you can’t defend your delusions with facts and contantly come up with new pathetic excuses. FYI, have owned my own home for years, and was a Dale Earnhardht Sr. fan from day 1, and will be forever. BTW don’t forget to Shamelessly vote for the embarassing PITY PASS this week!

  • Stevie Wonder says:

    It’s funny how much time overa88ted spends bashing Junior. I don’t think I’ve read one article about Junior in the past week that wasn’t followed by one of his mindless and obviously envious posts. What a pathetic existence that must be. If you take half of the time you waste ripping on Junior and put it toward something positive, you might one day make it out of your parents basement.

  • Overra88ted says:

    Marybeth… Yet again, just another lame EXCUSE for your Loser driver. Martinsville was another prime example of why Dale Jr. has only 1 (Na$crap assisted fuel mileage) win in the last 5 (FIVE) years. What an embarassing excuse! Marybeth and the rest of the Jr. Nation Hypocrites will be SO PROUD of poor Dale Jr. when he gets into the Sprint All-Star race with a PITY PASS. The All-Star race is a race for winners, but the delusional Hypocite Jr. Nation fans like Marybeth, will dream up new excuses that Poor Dale Jr. deserves the PITY PASS. Hey JR. Nation Hypocrites, feeling confident that Na$craps Most Popular Loser with God given average at best talent will finish in a trenfer spot on the Sprint Open, much less win a race for Losers? Or will poor Dale Jr. do what he does best… make laps in the middle of the pack? Jr. Nation Hypocrites know Dale Jr. doesn’t have enough Balls not to Shamelessly use the PITY PASS. Just like when he didn’t want to win at Matinsville.

  • Terry says:

    Amen. No one will be R. Dale Earnhardt (Sr.). And while that is unfortunate it is also fitting. We should be most grateful that we had the many years we did to watch him at work. Some liked him some did not. But he was the reason that I started to watch and stick with this ’sport’ from the late 1980s. And I was a stalwart fan of his. Yes he pushed or nudged, but (and here they come!) he also had a knack for loosening up by pulling right up on the spoiler at the larger tracks (before the COT ruined that). As to the race last weekend, it sure looked to me from the last few laps, that Dale Jr. did not have the car to hold Harvick in any event. Yes he got past Kyle as he needed to and he had the better of those two cars, but there looked like no holding back the 29. Either way, I respect the son greatly because he his who he is, and did not go for the cheap shot. (Like Harvick did to JJ a few weeks past.) I just wish the media, critics and publicity hounds would get off his tail and let him be who he is. No he should not get a free pass, but he should not be over scrutinized for who his father is either.

  • Tim says:

    Great perspective Jim. While personally, I can respect Jr’s approach and his unwillingness to punt Harvick at Martinsville, I too thought about what his daddy would have done in that situation. Dale Sr powered the growth of NASCAR in the 90’s largely because fans knew that if he was on the lead lap late in the race, something extraordinary was likely to happen. Fans/viewers have lots of options these days. To keep them tuning in and buying tickets, they have to believe that they will see something special and extraordinary. Drivers respectfully allowing the faster car to pass for lead late in the race might be good sportsmanship, its not going to ignite the kind of fan passion that’s going to get this sport back to where we all want it to be. Jr is not his dad, but for the sake of the sport I hope a driver comes along SOON who will do whatever it takes to win. Our lives are full of “the expected” we look to sports to deliver extraordinary moments that are unexpected. Last Sunday, Jr missed an opportunity to deliver one of those extraordinary moments – one that could have provided a big push to NASCAR’s effort to get this sport down the road to growth and prospertity.

  • RickM says:

    I was at Bristol and there was booing but it was about half and half. Labonte punted Dale to get the lead at the other end of the track and Dale paid him back! If the roles had been reversed it would have been ok, as it was at Pocono when Jeremy Mayfield shoved Dale out of the way. And if you go back and research you will find out that Dale was ok with it and seeked Mayfield out to congratulate him.

  • Autoweet.com says:

    Labonte win would be big in Texas…

    What would the reaction of Texas stock automobile racing fans be should Bobby Labonte win Saturday night?Relatively, the rejoicing at Texas Motor Speedway might knock the needle off NASCAR’s version of the Richter Scale.It would be similar……

  • Marybeth says:

    Jim, If it were Mark Martin in Jr.’s place at the end of the race and he realized his back end was loose & a faster car was coming & did the smart thing instead of causing a wreck at the front of the field, you would be praising him as an experienced, savvy, gentleman driver & that that is the reason MM has lasted so long in the sport at the top level. There is also the idea that what you sow you reap, karma the drivers call it.