Monday, June 16, 2008

We expected it, but it was a big deal anyway

When the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in 1998, I stepped outside and heard cheering. The sound of hundreds of thousands of fans celebrating the win of their team carries a long way, and, frankly, sounds quite overwhelming. Horns were honking, and fireworks were being fired.

After Dale Earnhardt, Jr won the Lifelock 400 at Michigan International Speedway, I stepped outside and heard nothing. I didn't expect to.

At the Busch series races at Pike's Peak International Raceway, the most popular driver was usually whoever was driving the Richard Childress racing #2 car--Dale Earnhardt, Ron Hornaday, and Clint Bowyer all drove that car at PPIR, and they were all popular while they were driving it. Of the current Cup drivers, Tony Stewart seems to be the most popular in the Colorado Springs area. I say "seems" because the Tony Stewart merchandise seems to sell the fastest around the Colorado Springs area. That is not a scientific guage, because it could be just one wealthy person with an awesome collection. But I do know quite a few NASCAR fans here, and most of them are Stewart fans. That makes sense, as Tony Stewart won his first major series race at PPIR with his IRL victory in 1997. Dale Jr is the second most popular, and Jeff Gordon the third, while Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth seem to have quite a few fans here. My point is that there were not hundreds of thousands of fans around here to cheer for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Earnhrdt's first win with Hendrick really is, and should be a big deal. Even if it is met with a sigh of relief, rather than the roar of an entire city going wild in celebration, it could be marked as the beginning of a new era. Earnhardt Jr has shown that he can live up to the expectations of the fans. So what if it was a fuel mileage win? Jr and his team put the #88 car where it needed to be at the right time, and a win is a win.

Does it mean Jr Nation can stop hating Kyle Busch? Does it mean they will stop calling for Tony Eury, Jr's head? Probably not, in answer to both questions. Criticizing the crew chief, and calling for the drawing and quartering of the major rival are part of the fun of being a race fan, and we can assume that many fans among the Jr Nation will be unwilling to give up that kind of fun.

We knew all along that Dale Jr would win a race this season. With his talent, and the personnel and equipment provided by HMS, there was no doubt that he would win. Even for those of us who are not part of Jr Nation, it is a reason to celebrate, because it means, at least, an end to the question "Why can't Jr win?"


Tim Zaegel said...

I agree. Typically I'm one of the first people to discount an overhyped win, but this really is a big deal. Some folks think Jr's underrated, some think he's overrated. Personally, I think he's a great driver (probably not quite as great as some would like to believe he is), and now he's showing what he can do given the right equipment. Now that he's finally got the monkey off his back, there could be a lot more of these to come down the pipe.

DaleJarrett4Ever said...

It was just a matter of time before Jr. would get a win. He has the talent and in the past has been lacking the equipment. Being with HMS is the best move he could of made and leaving DEI. It is a cause for celebration!!! Congrats to Jr and this will not be the last win for him.