Well, well, well, we have waited 143 races if memory serves me correctly to see that smiling shining face of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to finally make it back to victory lane. JR did just that last Sunday on Father’s day at Michigan. JR got to the checkered flag first and now leaves Jeff Gordon as the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to not win a race this season. I’ll have more on Gordon a bit later.
I did not get to see the race this weekend because I was out celebrating Father’s day with my dad and my son as well. So what do I want to talk about when it comes to Dale Jr. getting the win? Simple, I want to see what is going to happen with attendance and ratings over the next few weeks. I have contended over the last two years that there has been more to the ratings and attendance woes NASCAR has seen than just the economy. It has been a situation where the sport’s biggest star has not performed on the track. When the number one driver does not perform, there is not much reason for people to turn on the race or even attend. Now he has won, and that may cause folks to tune back in.
Therefore, I am going to watch closely over the next few weeks to see what the television ratings are going to be, and to see if we get a bump in attendance at the races. Also, we know that the Fourth of July weekend is approaching. That means a return to Daytona for the Coke 400. There is a chance for JR to catch on fire and completely turn the NASCAR world upside down. Get ready, the streak is broken and the sky is now the limit for the 88 team.
Some speculation now that is kind of flowing around. There have been some rumors swirling around that Andretti Motorsports may be fielding a NASCAR entry next year. I am going to speculate that there is a really good offer on the table from the good folks at Dodge to get the startup program going for Andretti. I am going to further speculate that Kurt Busch is going to be the driver that will be piloting those Andretti machines around the tracks next year. Dodge needs another team on the track with some big names behind it. Kurt may have continued to have some problems with the media and problems on the track, but he is proven and is a champion. I also have heard from many insiders in NASCAR that Kurt is a great guy away from the track, something just snaps in him at the track. Remember as well, all press is good press for the most part. Just do not be surprised when there is an Andretti owned car in the Sprint Cup Series next season being raced by Kurt Busch. In my opinion, this would be a huge pickup for the sport to have this team get started.
Final topic of the week from me. I said I would get back to Jeff Gordon and here I go. I am a huge Jeff Gordon fan and I do try to call it how I see it in articles and from a fair standpoint to all the other drivers. With having said that, I have come to the conclusion this season that the magic in Gordon’s hands and feet and the abilities to pilot a stock car are waning. I realize that Mark Martin almost won a race two weeks ago, and he is years older than Gordon. I realize that Gordon still drives well. I realize that all good things have to come to an end, and I fear that Gordon is on the downhill side of his career. It really is not a fear; it is something I have just not wanted to admit for a long time. I will always be a Gordon fan, but the days that Jeff is the dominant driver at Hendrick is over and has been over for some time. I think he has a few wins left in him over the next couple of years, but for us Gordon fans, we need to relish each win or great run we get to witness from him going forward. Its just the nature of how things work, especially when we have been treated to so much greatness from a future Hall of Famer on the track.