Even Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Fans Are Wondering

Rob RhodesContributor IMay 4, 2009

RICHMOND, VA - MAY 01:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet, prepares to drive during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Russ Friedman 400 at Richmond International Raceway on May 1, 2009 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

I am not what you would call a Dale Jr. fan, but I have followed his career since the death of his father in 2001. A few years ago, I wrote an article for Associated Content called "Is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Overrated?". In this article and another one that I did for AC, I defended Dale. Although I still like the guy, I think he does need to make some changes, or allow changes to be made.

More and more, even  his fans are saying the same thing. For the longest time, whenever an article or blog post was written about Dale Jr. running poor or that his driving is not what makes him a fan favorite, the comments were so mixed. You had the Jr. Nation defending him and the Jr. Haters bashing him.

The further it gets into the season and the lower he falls in the standings, it seems as if the two groups have come together. His fans are a lot nicer on how they put it, but it's still the same. Changes must be made.

An article I read today, called "How Bad Is Dale Jr.? ", is really what brought me to write about this. I wasn't going to since everyone who has a NASCAR related blog has done so already. Actually, it wasn't as much the article, but the comments that really struck me. The two common solutions to Dale Jr's problems were to split him and Tony Eury Jr. up, and get Dale Jr.'s head out of all the business ventures, and back in the car. Here are a few from the article.

Well, well all of the JR bashers are awake. I'll admit it hasn't been a good season but he's posted his wins in the car all by himself. The problem is that he doesn't want to hurt a relatives feelings. Maybe Eury Jr is one of the best but the duo just isn't working in the best interest of the team, the fans or the owner.I'm a manager and kind of dumbfounded that an owner with this overwhelming success is willing to let this situation roll-on. It just seems that once the car starts moving the team becomes dis-jointed. The adjustments are off. The it crew is hap-hazard at best. It just seems that no one is in charge.If Jr likes Tony Jr on his pit box so well maybe they should buy a Nationwide team or a truck team. I think that would be a waste of talent. It's time for Rick to do what he knows he needs to do and break-up this mediocrity.

There is something not working with the 88 team and it is not equipment or resources... Hendrick has one of the best organizations in NASCAR.... You aren't going to get rid of Junior, so Tony Eury Jr needs to be replaced NOW before it becomes a ANOTHER lost season for Junior. If Junior doesn't start winning, it is not good for NASCAR.

Dale Jr is a far better driver than what is showing as of late. I don't think Tony Eury Jr is a bad crew chief, I think its time for those to divorce. They are hindering each other. Also, Junior seems to be set in his ways, he has to learn to embrace changes. He needs to communicate better.He needs therapy.

I agree with most of the comments. Jr. makes $20 million every year on endorsements without winning a race. Obviously, a product of his father. He did help himself by winning fairly immediately after Sr's death. Naturally, all his dad's fans just gravitated toward him after he showed signs of carrying the torch. I think it's a combination of all said above. He has too much money in a society that says if your rich, then your successful. And his team is very average. Remember, he changed teams in 03(I think) when at DEI. His crew chief is his cousin and there is obviously a loyalty to him that is hendering. You can see how crappy his team is on the adjustments they make during the race. Compare like Jimmy Johnson's crew to his. You can just about gaurantee [sic] that Jimmy's car will be good on the last run of every race. They may not get it right at first but, eventually, the car will be in the top five. That shows the crew chief knows his stuff. Now, look at Jr.'s. Time after time, his car gets worse and worse as the race goes on. Unless, it's at a superspeedway like: Daytona, Talledega, or Atlanta. This crew only knows how to go fast on big tracks. It shows they are very one dimensional and Jr is suffering from it. I can promise is not the driver. To me, it shows maybe they are not listening to their teammates. Week in and week out, Gordon, Johnson, and Martin are in the top ten. Why isn't Jr.? They have the same equipment. Diff is the team. You give Chad Kanauss a bicycle and he will make it competitive. You give Tony Eury Jr. a rocket ship fueled with nitrous and he'll figure out a way to make it worse. Put Jr. in a good car and he wins. Plain and simple.

I personally disagree with part of the last comment. I don't think Tony Jr. is a bad crew chief. He could be great with another driver. It's the combination of the two together. Dale Jr. wants what he wants, even if it's not the right move. Tony Jr. won't stand up and say "hey this is what we're doing," or "this is how many tires we're changing."

Two moves I believe would turn Dale Jr.'s season around would be to put him with another crew chief, and for him to allow his sister to handle more of the business side of his career and put his head and heart back into driving the car.

This article and more comments on it can be found on my blog at http://www.robsnascar.wordpress.com.