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Woody: Pass The Butter, Earnhardt Is Toast

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 5 2009
Dale Earnhardt heads for another lousy finish during Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Daytona. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dale Earnhardt heads for another lousy finish during Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Daytona. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com 

NASCAR’s most popular driver appears destined to be a spectator in this fall’s championship playoffs.

If Dale Earnhardt Jr. was going to make the 12-man championship field, he needed to make a major move Saturday night at Daytona.

But he moved in the wrong direction, dropping from 19th to 21st in the standings with a 39th-place finish.

With just eight races to go to set the Chase lineup, I don’t see any hope for Junior to dig himself out of such a hole.

As he himself noted, it’s not so much the points but the positions. Earnhardt has to not only do well over the next eight races, but at the same time hope that all eight drivers between him and the coveted 12th spot have problems.

Two or three of them might stumble, maybe even four or five. But what are chances that all eight will unravel and allow Junior to pull a Houdini? Next to impossible. Just like Earnhardt’s odds.

A good finish last Saturday night would’ve keep hope alive. Instead, he was caught up in a crash, ending his night and his Chase chances.

And so this morning that the biggest name in NASCAR finds himself trailing such unlikely suspects as rookie Joey Logano (20th) and Marcus Ambrose (18th).

Even more insurmountable is the presence of Mark Martin, David Reutimann, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and Jamie McMurray — all of whom are tough competitors who are having vastly superior seasons to Earnhardt’s.

None of them are going to pull over and wave Junior around just to hear the crowd roar.

As Earnhardt’s hopes have faded, his misery is magnified by the success of his Hendrick Motorspors teammates. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are second and third in the standings. Mark Martin had been in the top 12 until a Daytona wipeout bumped him down two spots.

All three have won this year, while Junior hasn’t come close.

Why not? What’s Earnhardt’s problem? Is team owner Rick Hendrick giving all three of his teammates faster car and better support?

And if not, then what’s the explanation for Junior’s struggles and the huge gap between his performance and the performance of his three teammates?

Some of his problem has been plain bad luck. But bad luck can’t account for it all.

Junior has eight more races to pull off a miracle. If he could manage to squeeze into the Chase then it’s a new season with new possibilities. Any of the 12 drivers have a chance to be champion.

But first he has to make it in, and that’s unlikely. I realize that the Earnhardt Nation doesn’t want to hear it, but it’s probably time to pass the butter. Junior’s toast.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 5 2009
12 Comments

12 Comments »

  • Shambo says:

    On June 26 I posted an article entitled “Why Is Dale Earnhardt Jr. So Popular?” on the blog site LetMeSayThisAboutThat.com. One would have thought that I had questioned the existence of the Almighty himself.

    Apparently, facts don’t count for much in “Jr. Nation”. These delusional souls just can’t admit that Mr. Earnhardt is a mediocre driver, regardless of what results tell them.

    Hey, I’m a Florida Marlins fan, but I will be the first to tell you they aren’t a very good baseball team. Earnhardt Jr fans can’t just be fans, they have some pathetic belief that he soon will be champion.

    Sorry “Little e” fans, but the Tooth Fairy is a better bet.

  • Lin Hunnicutt says:

    The reason that he is toast is that he is not the driver that everyone thinks that he is. It is true that he has lived in his father’s shadow, but still he is not the driver that his dad was and Hendrick needs to give him the boot.

  • Rick says:

    If you think Jr haters are illogical you should have seen “Earnhardt Nation” during Gordon’s glory years. At least you don’t see Junior haters throwing Bud cans at Dale’s winning car on the track. Oops, sorry, bad example.

  • kathy says:

    woo hoo!! all the jr haters can rejoice now… jr will not make the chase this year. so now what?? who will you have to blame all of your woes on now? jj or jeff gordon or tony stewart or …. who? i find jr haters to be the most illogical bunch of people on the planet. you pull for whomever is winning”bandwagon fans” and blame jr for the sun not rising. Unbelievable!!! Dale Jr. is someone that all nascar fans can be proud of and quite frankly with out Jr. Nascar wont be so much. Ask any of the reporters or anyone that has anything to do with track sales. I am and always will be a Jr. fan winning or not. He will be a champion one day i am sure of that. If he will just quit listening to idiots like you

  • Mrjoepc says:

    JR has a year he would have never started. Still, when you are in the stable with all stars and many wins, someone has to be the step child. Jr, in my opinion, should have never went to Hendricks, but to another really good owner without all of the stars to butter up constantly. Maybe Joe Gibbs would have been a choice, but if manufacturer loyality comes in the picture, then Childress would have been a really good choice. Nevertheless, Jr has belly flopped since his move from DEI, and I think once he gets out of the Hendricks stable, he should be able to get back to being more competetive and win again.

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  • Trish Coker says:

    You have to look at all that Dale Jr has gone through the previous years…all that pressure.. I personally think that has affected some of his driving . Mr H is working with Jr on communication,which is a big part of being successful . Jr might not be a driver like my Jimmie but he will be winning races again and WILL be in the championship running, maybe not this year ,but next year..its a work in progress ..

  • Rick says:

    Jr is one of the few drivers who drive with respect? You’ve got to be kidding. He’s hit enough cars this year to suggest he’s no better than the other 42. Mark Martin is the most respectful driver out there and he’s in contention for a Chase berth with three wins. Next excuse please.

  • Ginger says:

    Jr’s problem is that he is one of the few drivers who drive with respect for the other drivers. He will spend laps trying to make a pass instead of bumping someone out of the way. Maybe he is trying to atone for the times his father bumped someone out of the way. He has been wrecked numerous times this year by the carelessness of other drivers….just like Kasey Kayne last night. Sometimes I wonder why we call them professional racers. Kasey caused wrecks Friday and Sat night. Why don’t we call Nascar Spring Cup a demolition derby, because that’s what it has become.

    And you, Mr Woody, have treated Jr and his fans with disrespect with your cutsy headline. Perhaps your editor did that, in which case I apologize.

  • Overra88ted says:

    I’d pass you more BUTTER, but just there’s none left, just like EXCUSES for JR. BUTTER it up any way you want, but JR. driving the best equipment on the track lost points AGAIN this week. JR. will be eliminated from chase to the chase by Atlanta, maybe even Bristol. Interesting how during the last five (5) years since losing their DEI aero/HP edge, 2 AVERAGE DRIVERS, Jr. and Michael Waltrip can’t seem to win a plate track race.

  • D Jones says:

    I’m not bagging on JR but, since he’s not going to make the Chase, he should use the rest of the season as one long test session. I think he’s trying too hard to keep up with the Hendrick image of winning drivers. If he can relax, he might have better finishes.