Several times this season, Hendrick Motosports driver and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has done the unthinkable. He has managed to miss his pit stall during critical stops in the race.
It happened again this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Junior drove past his pit box, passing his crew by in the process.
These mistakes in pitting caused the No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard team to finish in the very disappointing 20th position.
Obviously, Dale Junior has some kind of issue with locating his pit stall. He has even admitted that he gets confused when all the various team signs are waving and cannot seem to find his pit sign or box very easily.
So, what can be done to help Earnhardt, Jr. with his pit problems? Here are 10 suggestions for his pit box location malady.
1. Neon Pit Sign
Since Junior is complaining that he cannot see his pit sign, the crew should definitely add some neon glowing and blinking lights to the pole. Perhaps this will guide Junior safely in for his pit stops.
2. Emergency Pit Flares
These flares seem to work well when used by police and law enforcement to signal traffic problems or different traffic patterns in cases of accident or construction. Why not add a few emergency flares around the pit box a few laps before Junior is due to pit?
3. Enhance Pit Crew Attire
All those pit crew members must surely look alike and with sponsors changing almost daily, the uniforms must be hard to distinguish for the drivers. Enhance Junior's pit crew attire with a few Hawaiian shirts to set them apart and truly capture the driver's eye.
4. Pit Box Outline
While not a sponsor of Junior's car but a sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports, Junior and team should take a trip to Lowe's and purchase some heavy duty day-glow tape. They can then use this to outline Junior's pit box, again giving him some signal as to where to pit.
5. Track Billboards
Helping Junior pit should actually start before he ever enters pit road. The No. 88 team should consider a few billboards strategically placed around every track, with a simple map delineating where Junior is on the track in relation to his pit stall on pit road.
That simple "you are here" and "here is where you should pit" may be just the ticket in overcoming the pit problems.
6. GPS Unit
If Kasey Kahne can use his Garmin to help him around the track, why not have a GPS unit specifically set up for the pit box for Junior?
7. National Guard Contingent
One of Junior's primary sponsors is the National Guard. They are sworn to protect their country and most surely would not mind protecting Junior for his pit stop as well.
The Guard could come out, form their battle lines and guide Junior right in for each and every pit stop. An added bonus is that they could fire off a few shots to get his attention if he veers off the course in any way.
8. Specialized Driver Enhancement
Have you ever been to Disney World on the ride where you "drive" the cars? A Disney staffer jumps onto your vehicle as you near the end of the ride to guide you into the station.
This could also work handily for Junior as one of his crew members could jump onto the car at the end of pit road and navigate him into the correct pit stall for his stop.
9. Fairy Tale Fix
In many fairy tales, the heroes and heroines leave bread or cookie crumbs on the path to lead them back home. Junior and his crew could take a page out of the fairy tale book, leaving a path of Amp cans to send Junior in for the perfect pit stop.
10. Pit Stops 101
Finally, the most important thing that Dale Junior and crew must do is to go back to practicing Pit Stops 101.
In these two weeks off, instead of hunting baskets and coloring eggs, the No. 88 team and driver should be practicing pits stops, enhancing their communications, and figuring out how to get into the pits appropriately before the next race in Phoenix.
Adhering to all or any of these suggestions, especially the final tip, will most certainly lead Dale Junior safely into his pit box.
And perhaps, miracle of all miracles, this team will actually perform up to its potential and fulfill the fans' expectations.
UPDATE: Today's Wall Street Journal in a story by Matthew Futterman reports the following in their Heard on the Field column:
Mired in 16th place in Nascar's Sprint Cup standings, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is trying out a new career. He's the directional voice on a new navigational device from Transplant GPS called the Spotter. Junior, as he is known, will use his down-home twang to tell drivers, "Hey, back'er down. You gotta turn around," or "Hang a right". Given Mr. Earnhardt's mistake-filled season, may we suggest the device also include such utterances as, "Woops, just missed out pit stop."