Being On a a Big Team Isn't All What It's Cracked Up To Be

Misan AkuyaCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2009

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Amp Energy Chevrolet, stands on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 11, 2009 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr sits 21st in points.  He has 2 top fives, and 5 top ten finishes this season.  And with his teammates Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon 1st, 3rd and 6th in points a tough season for a guy on the best team in NASCAR.  Now one might say Jr doesn't have the ability clearly as he races for the best team in NAscAR.


Let's evaluate Dale Earnhardt Jr's stats in the 88 car versus the 8 car shall we?

In the 88: 1 win, 12 top fives, 21 top tens, an average finish of 17.11, average start of 15.3.  Points finishes are 12th and is currently 21st in points.

In the 8: 17 wins, 76 top fives, 121 top tens, an average finish of 16.38, an average start of 15.8.  Points finishes are  16th, 8th, 11th, 3rd, 5th, 19th, 5th, and 16th.

Now he spent a few more seasons in the 8 car but let's compare Jr's first 2 seasons in the 88 versus his first 2 seasons in the 8.

In the 88: 1 win, 12 top fives, 21 top tens points finishes are 12th and right now 21st.

In the 8: 5 wins, 12 top fives, 20 top tens and points finishes are 16th and 8th. 

Big difference in wins from 1 fuel win to 5 wins.  Same amount of top fives and even 1 less top ten but another big difference in points finishes with an 12th and currently 21st in the 88 compared to a 16th and 8th in the 8.  Lest we forget in 2000 and 2001 Jr's first2 seasons in the 8 were also the first 2 seasons of his career.

So for all intensive purposes Dale Earnhardt Jr ran better in the 8 car than the 88 car.  He was more a championship contender there as well.  Dale Earnhardt Has never had a season of such defeat and failure as he is having right now and it isn't because he isn't a great driver.  Dale Earnhardt can wheel a racecar when given to him win races, contend for championships, overall be a consistent top ten driver.  You would think leaving DEI and going to Hendrick the best team in the sport would make him a   championship contender.  But it seems as if he has only gone downhill.  Why is that?

Simple.  My best friend gave me an analogy that I had to rephrase a bit saying that it is better to be #1 on a less funded and smaller organization, than it is to be 4th on one fo the best teams in NASCAR.

Perfect example is Brian Vickers.  In the 25 car Brain Vickers got a win by spinning out then teammate Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr at Talladega.  In his rookie season he assumed 0 top five finishes.  In 3 seasons with Hendrick he has 1 win, 10 top fives, 23 top tens, an average finish of 20.64, and point finishes of 25th, 17th and 15th.

Brian left Hendrick for a brand new team called Team Redbull.  Things were tough at first, as they weren't in the top 35 , missed 13 races including the Daytona 500.  But even Then Vickers had 1 top five, 5 top tens, and led 106 laps.  Far better than his rookie year at Hendrick motorsports.

Now in 2009 he has won 6 poles, a race outright, and for the first time in his career has made the chase  This is the same Brian Vickers who was struggling in the 25.  Now you may ask how can a driver go from struggling on the best team in NASCAR to succeeding and contending for a championship on a 3 year old team?

Easy.  He is now #1 at a team.

Brian complained that at Hendrick he would always get overshadowed by his teammates, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and then Kyle Busch.  Being one of the reasons why he left Hendrick  Your not going to tell me Brian was a mediocre driver at Hendrick but all of a sudden gained talent when he went to RedBull are you?

Another prime example:Jamie McMurray.

McMurray was the #1 driver at Ganassi.  There he won a race in only his 2nd start, had 19 top fives, 48 top tens, including 23 top tens in 2004 only 2nd to Jeff Gordon, an average finish of 16.9, and contended for wins and chase berths coming very close in 2004 and being the top ten in points in 2005 until getting wrecked by Tony Raines under cautions.  His points finishes were great with finishing 13th,11th and 12th in points his 3 full seasons at Ganassi.

Wanting to advance his career, Jamie took Jack Roush's offer to go to Roush racing.  Thinking like Jr that it was going to make him at true championship contender Jamie was excited to go to Roush.  Needless to say it didn't work out.  In 4 Roush seasons Jamie has won a race, but only has 10 top fives, 30 top tens, an average finish of 19.3.  His points finishes were 25th, 17th , 16th and right now is 23rd in points.

Your not going to convince me that all of a sudden that he lost his talent.

Like Jr was at DEI and like Brian is at Team RedBull, Jamie was #1 at Ganassi.  But then became 4th at Roush and suffered because of it.

Dale Earnhardt Jr is in the 4th Hendrick car.  That car hasn't had a good history.  Ever since Tim Richmond died the car only has 8 wins. 

When Jr was the center of attention at DEI he was winning races and contending for championship.  At Hendrick, Rick has Jeff Gordon his 4 time champion, Jimmie Johnson his 3 time champion, and Mark Martin the ageless wonder who somehow wins races at 50 years of age.

I doubt Earnhardt Jr will do this but instead of sticking it out  he should leave Hendrick.  Got Stewart Haas racing if you can, perhaps to back to  what is now Earnhardt Ganassi racing and be in the 8 car again.  Anything to become the center of an organization would be huge.

Just because the other cars don't run well don't mean you will follow.  Kasey Kahne is 5th in points with 2 wins while his teammates are 24th, 26th and 28th in points.  Reason being:It is all about the 9.

So before you criticize Jr or alot of other drivers just consider this:Being #1 on a smaller team is a whole lot better than being 4th on the best team in NASCAR.