Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here's how I feel about Dale Jr.

Over the past few days, I've had a bunch of e-mails about the blog I wrote from the test at Atlanta on Monday about Dale Earnhardt Jr.

One person asked me to simply tell him what I truly think about Dale Jr., since he felt like it was something different every day. So I answered his questions, and thought it would make a decent blog, too.

So here it is:

I really, really like and admire Dale Jr. I think he deserves a great deal of credit for knowing that going to Hendrick Motorsports removes any excuse he might have for not having success, yet choosing to do it anyway.

He KNOWS people think he's over rated. He KNOWS people won't think he's proved himself and won't until he wins a championship. And he is not only acknowledging that by going to Hendrick, he is embracing that challenge and welcoming the pressure he's going to have over there. There's nothing about that I don't admire.

I think he has handled an impossible amount of pressure with as much skill as anybody could have. I think he knows he will never, ever measure up to what some people think he ought to be, which is his dad.

There was only one Earnhardt and he knows that.

He knows that he will never be able to satisfy everybody. So he wants to satisfy himself in knowing that he gave himself every chance to enjoy as much success as possible by going to the team he feels gives him the best chance he has to realize the potential he has.

I think his family situation is tragic. His relationship with his stepmother is something I wouldn't wish on anybody, and I think everybody involved in that contributes to the dysfunction. Teresa Earnhardt is not evil incarnate. He's never said she was. But they genuinely never connected on any kind of true level, and that means they really never leaned on each other when they lost Dale Sr. That's heartbreaking.

If you read me closely, I think when I write things that can be considered critical of him what I am really going after is the hype machine that is built up around him. The only thing critical I think I have written about him recently was when he said that his team wouldn't get credit for how well it has run and that how when it runs well it's at the back of the newspaper. That's absurd. Nobody is covered more.

What happens sometimes is that he believes people aren't writing about him enough, it's because the people around him cut him off from the media and have him off doing all kinds of other dog and pony shows. They tell us he doesn't have time to do interviews, and he doesn't because they line up 400 things for him to do to feed the monster they build around him. I hope that will change when he gets to Hendrick.

Is he better than Kyle Busch? I don't know. There's no way I can know that now, based on what they've done so far. I think Kyle has championship(s) in his future. I think Dale Jr. does, too.

Who wins one first? That's a great debate until it is answered?

Maybe this is the birth of a great rivalry. I sure hope so.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

If Kyle Busch couldn't win a championship and Hendrick he will never win one. Name a single driver over the last 15 years who has done shit after they departed from Hendrick?

billy said...

well done Mr. Poole....well done.

David Poole said...

Name a driver aside from Kyle who's departed Hendrick Motorsports and gone to a team anywhere near the sport's top tier.

Anonymous said...

Before I became a NASCAR fan in 2003, I was a fan of strictly "stick and ball" sports and of course, it was always a home town team. When I became a NASCAR fan, I couldn't get over the truly vast differences in being a NASCAR fan and the "s&b" teams. I became a Junior fan by chance, never was a Senior fan, and I've never seen such a level of devotion and passion that his fans have for him. I can't think of an equal in the other sports except maybe a collective passion that Red Sox fans have for their Sox. But even the Sox fans will draw a line in the sand if one goes to the "wrong" team (see Johnny Damon). So for Junior to pull off this switch to Hendrick, and taking along I'd say 95% of his current fan base, is amazing to me. He's doing something right.

Thanks for the blog, David. You have your hands full if you "diss" Junior (or they even THINK that you did) and that was a nice column. And of course, I agree with everything you said. LOL :)

Anonymous said...

My loyalty as a fan is not based on how many races my driver can win, it's based on how I have connected to that driver. I hope there's a championship in Dale Jr's future now that's he's moving over to an owner that is focused on winning. I've been a passionate Red Sox fan for over 30 years and they have broken my heart countless times. And then Theo Epstein arrives and I get not one World Series win, but TWO! So to the unbelievers - Dale Jr can win a championship , but if it doesn't happen I will be a Dale Jr fan nonetheless. And then there will be those conspiracy theorists who think the win was 'arranged'. At some point Dale Jr fans have to just stay focused and not let the critics derail them.

Thanks for your comments David.

Mr.T said...

David,

Thanks for this blog. I was starting to feel like you were flip-flopping every other day with Jr., too. I'm glad you spelled out your opinion of him.

I agree with much of what you said. He's said it himself, it's put up or shut up time and he went to the place that he felt most comfortable and that he felt he could contend.

It's also interesting about the sponsorships and being pulled in so many different directions. Some of that, I didn't know (i.e. he had to do things for other driver's sponsor).

This whole thing kind of goes along with what Tony Eury, Jr. said (and I'll paraprase), "at Hendrick they just delve deeper into the why something is done". Yeah, he was talking about engineering, but, I think it will help both Jrs. refine their talent,skills, and systems for doing things making for a much more professional operation top to bottom.

Andy Aldridge said...

Junior is in a tough situation that's going to go on for long time.

Fans have labeled him over-rated b/c he has lived in his father's shadow. No, he hasn't won a championship at DEI. From what little I know about the inner-workings of DEI, I doubt if he was ever going to win there.

Once Junior jumps to Hendrick, he'll have the best of everything racing-related. The deciding factor between Gordon, Johnson and Junior will be driving talent and instinct.

When and if Junior wins a Championship at Hendrick, fans will still label him as over-rated. They'll say he is winning b/c he's driving a Hendrick machine and even a mediocre driver could win in one.

It's a shame. Junior was labeled over-rated b/c he couldn't win at his father's shop with equipment that is sub-par now. He'll still be called over-rated when he does win b/c fans will say that it's the car, not the driver.

Even if he does win on the track. I doubt if he'll win over his critics.

Anonymous said...

In 2005 they went hog wild with the commericals trying to cash in on his 2004 championship run.

I do hope since he is not bankrolling DEI and Teresa that it will be more about racing. I hope he will be known as a Nascar Champion instead of always saying the son of Dale Earnhardt. I hope he is able to create his own legacy with HMS.

Kyle might have talent yet talent along does not win you races. It's entertaining to watch him yet if racing hard and on the edge wins races and championship he would have won 2 already.

I hope Jr will feel relaxed enough to go back to the way he use to race don't get me wrong I love the aggressive Jr yet with better equipment he will not have to go for broke.

Anonymous said...

David, Very well said.
I think this is the best thing that could have happened to Dale, Jr.
He is a great race car driver. His numbers show that in everyway except for the closure.

He has not had the opportunity with DEI that he has deserved with the equipment. Without the daily pressure that he has lived under he should do great.

An example of that was how excited he was that Rick Hendrick stayed over in Atlanta to be there for him when he took his first ride in the testing. That means a lot to anyone and it means so much more to Dale, Jr.
We all do better if we are supported and have relationships that are appreciated.

Thanks for writing a great article.

Dale, Jr. is loved by his fans because of the person that he is. He is a very humble person that thinks of others before himself that shows weekly.

He knows how hard he as run this year but the numbers does not show it at the end of the race. If he runs in the top 5 or 10 the entire race and can't close in the top 5 or top 10 that doesn't show on the final race report just the spot he finished in.

I think he will do great at Hendrick and he will be appreciated and shown that he is appreciated for what he does.

Monkeesfan said...

Dale Junior is loved by fans, and that's fine. He's ordinary, and by this I mean there's no haughtiness or air of arrogance about him. What turns me off about him is not him but the endless promotion (which isn't his fault) of him by media and the fanbase. He's not bigger than the sport and should never be promoted as such.

No one should have to apologize when they write something that's critical of him and based on actual fact; I don't think he feels that reasoned criticism of him is unwarranted.

As for being called overrated, in what context are we having the discussion? If one believes he's capable of 10 wins a year for five years, then yes he's overrated because he's never lived up to that level and I doubt he can. As a racer I wouldn't call him overrated in terms of basic talent.

Tom Faggart said...

I live in a family of a majority of females from the age of 88 to 11. They are all Jr. fans. They all love Junior. Sure they want him to win. Win or lose they are Junior fans. I, too, am a junior fan. I am a 70 year old male. Junior is one of those strange creatures which appear from time to time that draws people to him. That he is a race car driver is a coincidental. Had he had national exposure in any form it would have been the same. His father won fans for what he did. Junior wins fans by his driving ability, magnetic personality and good looks. Thanks for the words you wrote about him.

Anonymous said...

i never really thought you disliked dale jr. i kind of understood that you were irritated with all the media attention around him, much like many reporters have become over the course of the last 3 years (during the span dale jr has not been winning). but i still appreciate your clarity on the topic. and i agree with what you said regarding all the media attention, but i also think being nascar's most popular driver is a double edged sword for him. fans want as much junior as they can possibly get, and if he refuses to talk to the media and sort of "feed" their fervor then ppl will think he's being a jerk. all i know is that he's been placed in an unfair situation, which is the same reason i'm sure that we jr fans get so overly defensive. thanks again for the blog...but i'm sure you know by now that this blog is going to do nothing to quell the uproar the next time you write something about the dale jr hype machine. =)

Anonymous said...

Although I'll always be a Dale Earnhardt fan I'm not particularly a Dale Jr "fan". I just like the kid.

He spent most of his life trying to please his father. The rest of his life to this point has been spent trying to please everyone else. He will never be like his father because he's nothing like his father. Using that yardstick is unfair to the kid who needs to be his own man.

During the press conference when he announced his departure from DEI it was clear that the decision was a painful one for him to make. Albeit painful it was time for him to start pleasing himself for himself, win or lose. I wish him all the best.

Anonymous said...

When Dale Jr. blows and engine or loses a wheel, what is covered about it is the NEGATIVE (the engine or wheel mishap) and not how well they ran. I remember the headlines that read Dale Jr. misses the Chase. Which while true, didn't give his team the credit they deserved for having awesome cars that didn't make it to the end because of engine failure. If a race fan never watched a race this year and only read the news write ups, most would think Dale Jr. had a horrible team, he doesn't. He has horrible luck and questionable engines.

My point is that while nobody is covered more, Dale Jr.'s team hasn't gotten the credit it deserves for how well they ran UNTIL the engine blew. I agree with him on that.

Anonymous said...

I'm not taking away the skill or fan base of other drivers,but the fact is the name Earnhardt IS NASCAR.There are great drivers in Cup and I applaud them.In my opinion JG is this years Champ & I'm not a Gordon fan,but the man has the largest true point lead sine Dale Sr.'s 444 in 94.But it doesn't matter.The Chase,COT,Brian France have ruined a Great sport.The only think that will perk up the old fans is that Earnhardt name.

Anonymous said...

Baby E is living off the name, cronic complainer, and won't do crap nomatter who he is racing for.

Doug said...

Dale, Jr.'s move to Hendrick puts him in a stable with three other very popular and excellent drivers, taking lots of the pressure off him having to be the 'flagship' team member. With high-profile guys like Gordon and Johnson as teammates, Junior won't have to pull all of the marketing weight himself, like he has at DEI, and with Budweiser.

I think the sport has created a scary thing with half of its audience supporting a single driver. It creates a lot of pressure for these other guys that are constantly compared to him...Dale, Jr. certainly lives in a massive shadow of his dad, but he's created a monster shadow of his own for Aric Almirola, Truex, Kyle Busch, etc.

Anonymous said...

oxxwmkPoor ol’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. Bless his heart, he’s just not getting enough attention.

Gosh, that’s awful.

I mean, for goodness sakes.

got all the way up to 11th in the points for one whole week

suddenly it becomes apparent that all of us in this business just have not given Earnhardt Jr. enough publicity

that’s laughable.

gee, that is funny.
golly, i guess maybe Jr should not do as many interviews next year.

gosh, from what i read you take his honest comments and make fun of them.

holy cow, i find a frightful trend in your "writing" direction.

dadgum, when was the leas time you wrote something that didn't bash Jr, nascar, a track, or the france family.

wow darn, i don't think i have read such negative and sarcastic thoughts about other sports from the people who cover them.

snicker, is it such a awful thing to present a positive outlook on the sport that puts (lots) of food on your table.

run for your life, why would a prospective fan want to become involved with nascar when all they read from you is how rigged it is, and how the tracks are in dumb locations that take hours to get into and out of on raceday.

heck, you are like the fans who endlessly complain about the tv coverage, somehow forgetting that just a few short years ago it was almost impossible to find a race on tv.

Wayne said...

Good article Mr.Poole. You've hit on some of the reasons there are so many Dale Jr. fans. When Dale Sr. died I felt as if I'd lost a family member. I wasn't a Dale Jr. fan though. He earned that by being himself and from someone old enough to be his dad he's just a good kid. He's respectfull of the sport's history and of his peer drivers. As far as your writing,I always read your take to get an unbiased opinion. Most of the time you echo what most of us are thinking and would like to tell NASCAR.

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