Dateline September 30, 2008: We are rapidly approaching the end of yet another NASCAR Season. The points Chase is in full swing, with Jimmie Johnson swinging to the top again... surprise surprise. The news of my night last night though was a jayski article about Rusty Wallace coming out of retirement to drive for DEI.
This tidbit caused me to drop my mouth wide open as a slight chill tingled through my body.
In other news from DEI, Paul Menard is taking one of DEI's two sponsors and heading to Yates Racing.
Therefore, DEI is left with four cars, three drivers, one sponsor, and one bozo calling the shots.
Ragan Smith is in the unsponsored No. 01 car: 29th in the standings.
Aric Almirola is in the unsponsored No. 8 car: 15th in the standings (thanks to Mark Martin).
Martin Truex Jr. in the Bass Pro Shops No. 1 car: 17th in the standings.
Then, there is the No. 15 car with no driver and no sponsor.
That gives Teresa Earnhardt, in all her brilliance, basically a one car team with two test teams. One driver will be in his first full season in 2009.
DEI officially came into being around 1980, but it took them until the mid 1990's to field full time teams. Their first full time drivers were Ron Hornaday in the Truck Series, and Jeff Green in the Busch Series. These drivers were rookies, and anxious to make their mark on the sport. Hornaday found early success, winning championships in 1996 and 1998.
Then came Steve Park, who took over the Busch series ride in 1997. Park quickly jumped to Winston Cup in 1998 with the No. 1 Pennzoil car. Dale Jr. stepped into the empty Busch series seat, then proceeded to Cup starting in 2000.
This slight history was given to make you see the quick rise and fall of this great organization. The factor you need to note is the presence of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in everything mentioned. Dale, Sr. knew what he needed to do to make his company successful, and he did it.
The climax to the story comes in Daytona in July 2001. Dale Sr. lost his life at Daytona in February that year, then Dale Jr. came back to win it. Starting that day, Dale Jr. figured out that he could do it on his own. Around that same day, Teresa figured out she could do it on her own. Unfortunately only one was half right, the other was completely wrong.
The relationship between Dale Jr. and Teresa worsened, leading to Dale Jr finally breaking away from his fathers company to try racing under the Hendrick banner. Though improvements have been made, you can still see Jr. struggling with himself.
With the marked improvement, I say Dale Jr. was half right. It remains to be seen if Rick can make him a champion like he has done with so many others.
On the other hand is Teresa Earnhardt. She figured out early she had underestimated her capabilities. She brought on Max Siegel, a music industry suit, with no knowledge of racing (brilliant!!).
And her driver and sponsor lineup had been suffering even before Siegel came in.
Micheal Waltrip who took her second biggest face (can't call him a driver so much) to his own company, taking with him her second biggest and longest standing sponsor, NAPA, with him.
Then she watched as her biggest driver, Dale Jr. left, taking her biggest sponsor, Budweiser, at the same time.
In a time when it seemed like a smart thing to do, she agreed to purchase Ginn Racing, helping her immensly with new sponsorship, like the Army and Ginn Resorts.
Bobby Ginn took Ginn Resorts sponsorship with him upon his departure. This year, The Army looks to leave to go to Ryan Newman at Stewart Haas. Now, Paul Menard is leaving and taking one of her last two big sponsors with him.
The remaining is a underperforming No. 1 car, with Martin Truex who wanted to leave earlier this year, driving the Bass Pro Shops car. I personally wouldn't be surprised to see Bass Pro go to Stewart Haas after the 2009 season. Bass Pro and Stewart have strong ties within other racing series.
Now to why I am writing to begin with...
Rusty Wallace... Rusty Wallace???
Your company is dwindling and looks to be failing around you, and you look to Rusty Wallace?
706 starts... 1 Championships... 55 wins... 202 top fives
Rusty retired after the 2005 season. He provided Penske with their glory years through the 80's and 90's and early 00's. But why now should he be considered for a ride at DEI?
Maybe Teresa's new philosophy will be... out with new, in with the old.
If she can't get results from the rookies, maybe she will start putting retirees in her cars.
Rusty to the No. 15... maybe she will put some other golden oldies in the other cars...
Cale Yarbrough in the 01... which would be awesome!
DW in the 8... anything to get him out the TV Booth.
Richard Petty? Dale Jarrett? Ricky Rudd? Terry Labonte? Geoff Bodine? Harry Gant?
Why can't she look at some established drivers who are without rides in Cup?
Sterling Marlin, Johnny Benson, etc.?
Maybe some that never really got the right chance?
Scott Riggs, AJ Allmendinger?
I know Rusty won some, but he was beginning his descent into a DW type presence at the track. I just hope him coming back doesn't start a new fad, causing other owners to make a push to bring all retirees back, like happened with the open wheel driver push.
My question for you readers is how much longer before DEI is nothing more than a tourist attraction in North Carolina?
I give it two more years. Bass Pro leaves after next year. Rusty provides temporary help, then fizzles out. Truex is out at the time his contract is up.
DEI folds, but they will still sell all the stuff at the garage-ma-hal, and have tours. Teresa will be a tour guide!