In 2007 when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced he was leaving DEI for the glory of Hendrick Motorsports fans and media alike all decided this would be the perfect opportunity for him, he would finally have a team he can consistently win with and get a chance for a Sprint Cup title.
Unfortunately for Jr., fans and the media none of that happened. Dale Jr. managed one fuel mileage win in 2008, didn't come close to winning a title and had a pretty unmemorable season. All in all it was better than his 2007 campaign but fell short of his six win season and oh so close loss in 2004 while he drove for DEI.
Without the "evil stepmother" around who can we blame for Junior's uneventful season?
Should we pass the buck on to HMS for giving Jimmie Johnson all the good stuff (as fans like to say)?
Is it Tony Eury Jr's fault? Probably.
Is it Junior's fault in the slightest?
I would say he gets some blame, but I imagine I'm in the minority and will probably get blasted for it. How dare I say the chosen one is to blame for anything. In reality yes, it's primarily his doing that so many wins slipped away.
Why you ask? It's simple, when he was hired to drive for HMS he made damn sure his cousin and crew chief at DEI came with him. In Tony Jr's tenure at DEI he managed one (1, uno) single victory for the No. 8 team.
I don't know about you but that hardly warrants being handed the reigns at a new team. Junior's biggest problem is his loyalty to family (at least some family members) and until he can see that, drop Tony Eury Jr and get a new crew chief, one that can make informed decisions and be the one person who can make a decision when Junior can't seem to make up his mind he will never win a title, let alone more than one race a year.
Sure, you can say last year was a learning year, they were still getting a feel for the car, learning the HMS system and whatever other excuse you want to use but the fact is they were expected to win multiple races and contend for a title. That didn't happen.
I'm sure this year people will say the same thing, he'll win a ton of races and will be a favorite to win the Cup (because apparently Jimmie Johnson isn't?) but when it comes to Homestead, if he only has one win, if he's nowhere near being in the fight for a Cup title just how much longer will the love affair continue?
How much longer will people make excuses for Junior?
Will anyone finally have the balls to stand up and call him out for anything or will the blame continue to fall on everyone but him?
But hey, who knows, he might shock us all and win 10 or 12 races. If he does I'll happily eat that crow, but if he doesn't who will you blame?