This article is in part a response to one written by Ben Bomberger entitled “No Longer AMPed to Be A Dale Earnhardt Junior Fan”.
I also compose it as somewhat of an open letter to fans of “Little E” – who is now a teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, and thus someone who I support solely based on that fact.
Ben’s piece is postulated on the idea that he can no longer champion Dale Junior because of his sponsors. I find this curious, but not completely foreign. NASCAR fans are known to be fiercely loyal to their team colors.
Ben also explores the point of backing the car manufacturer – a concept that has gone by the wayside over the past twenty years, as the cars on the track have drifted farther from their showroom counterparts.
So with all that being said I have to ask a serious and perhaps penetrating question:
Why root for Dale Jr. in the first place?
Take your time. I’ll wait.
FAR too many people jumped on the Junior bandwagon because they were fans of his daddy. And here's a news flash:
Junior ain't his daddy.
Not even close. Not quite Kyle Petty, but somewhere between he and Dale Jarrett.
I would respect Junior fans a lot more if they would get away from the father-son rooting deal. I was a big Richard Petty fan as a kid. I liked seeing Kyle win but he wasn't ever tops of my list.
If you haven’t realized it by now, Dale Junior would rather be liked than win at any cost.
His daddy didn’t give a rat’s butt what you thought of him…It was all about the “W”.
Junior don’t play dat.
And with that realization it makes me wonder why so many fans of the father blindly followed the son. It raises yet another gripping question:
Why were you a fan of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.?
I would submit this for you to mull over: The two for the most part are incompatible.
If you were a fan of dad because of his unswerving aggressiveness, then Junior is lacking.
If you liked his rugged self-made man history – someone who struggled and paid his “dues”, then Junior would fall into the same category as Jeff Gordon to most of you (even though that analysis is flawed as well).
Was it because of the black car?
Perhaps you feel both are down-to-Earth country-types who seem unassuming and like someone you’d go have a beer with.
Here you have a case.
Now on the sponsor tip: Ben makes a point that I take serious issue with, “I'm simply not AMPed to join the National Guard or live off of Mountain Dew.”
I personally like the taste of MD but prefer 5-Hour Energy Drink to AMP-type beverages in huge cans. I just don’t like what the Dew does to my system sometimes.
The National Guard thing raises a more personal issue, but I don’t see a correlation between a desire to serve the country and supporting those who allow us the freedom to even enjoy cars, much less NASCAR.
One reason not expressed in the piece was the fact that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is driving for “the enemy” at HMS. I have heard a lot of moaning about this association, but it shows a lack of historical perspective.
Rick Hendrick’s first NASCAR victory came with Dale Senior behind the wheel, and the two shared a long-time friendship.
So do you root for a driver because of who he or she is, because of the kind of car they drive, the colors they carry, or the team they belong to?
Ben makes a comprehensive analysis for why he can’t or won’t support a number of others drivers in the series, before settling on Brian Vickers and the Toyota-powered Red Bull team.
I’m actually good with that decision, as I have no beef with Vickers – a former Hendrick driver who was given his shot in NASCAR by Ricky Hendrick, son of the team’s owner, who was tragically killed in the plane crash outside Martinsville in 2004.
I also don’t begrudge Toyota, as they have done a bang-up job breaking into NASCAR, though with some advantages other makes have not enjoyed. They also employ a significant number of Americans and provide a high-quality product that’s made in this country, as opposed to cars with “Big Three” badging made outside the U.S.
In the end I would suggest taking a good hard look at the reasons why you choose to root for an Earnhardt in the first place, and then either stand by your man, or, as Ben has, choose another driver you can back for a reason you can live with – like the taste of the energy drink that endorses him.
But have some reason for supporting your guy or gal and do so proudly.
In a society where standing for something seems to have become politically incorrect, as it means you are closed-minded or discriminatory, I tend to hope NASCAR fans will “Man-up” with the American ideal of just agreeing to disagree, and enjoying the race in good spirit (unless, of course, you don’t drink...).