You can tell it’s a slow news time in NASCAR when it makes headlines that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is frustrated. I mean, really, what’s he supposed to be late in a winless season as his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates duke it out for a title?
It would have been news if he said things were great and he was happy with his performance. The fact that he’s not satisfied is the one piece of good news for Junior Nation as Rick Hendrick ponders a course of action to get his popular driver back on track.
A crew chief announcement is coming, and Hendrick, if he’s as smart as everybody believes he is, should use the opportunity to find a strong-willed technician who will draw respect from the driver. For all his skills behind the wheel, Earnhardt, it appears, isn’t very good at communicating what his car needs. He knows what he wants in a car, but when he tries to play driver and crew chief, it just doesn’t work.
It was suggested this week that Junior could bolt Hendrick for Richard Childress Racing when his contract expires (or sooner if RCR bought him out) and reunite the Earnhardt name with the famous 3 car. It certainly would make a lot of people happy, and if he continues to struggle it’s hard to see Hendrick re-upping at the current rate.
Earnhardt has said he didn’t want to drive the 3 until maybe later in his career. Truth is, it’s getting later than he might think.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...