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Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Why Isn't He Driving His Own Car at Watkins Glen?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2011

LONG POND, PA - AUGUST 05:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, walks in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 5, 2011 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

At a time when seat time could prove advantageous to Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a track with left and right turns, he hands his No. 7 JR Motorsports car over to none other than Jimmie Johnson.

With five races until the Chase, it would seem the driver who is 10th in the point standings with zero wins would use every opportunity to hone his road-course skills at Watkins Glen.

Five drivers have driven the No. 7 to top-10 finishes this year, Danica Patrick, Josh Wise, Ron Fellows, Kasey Kahne and Dale Jr.

Normally road-course specialist, Ron Fellows, would be behind the wheel of the No. 7. Fellows looked to be the winner at Road America in June, but finished second in the JR Motorsports car.

With sponsorship dollars tight, there was apparently a problem finding a sponsor for Fellows at Watkins Glen.

Dale Jr. decided to offer the car to his Hendrick teammate, Johnson, who has not run the Nationwide series since 2008. He ran four races for JR Motorsports that year.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 30:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 30, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (P
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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Logic would cause one to wonder if Junior took leave of his senses by letting Johnson, who is second in points and running for a sixth consecutive Cup title, gain advantage with seat time at Watkins Glen.

Why is he not driving the car himself when he so badly needs the road-course practice to push him to a good finish with his No. 88 AmpEnergy/National Guard NASCAR Sprint Cup car?

The truth is Johnson has a new project to promote, his new video game that will launch in a few months, Jimmie Johnson's Anything With An Engine. The No. 7 was the place to do that.

In addition to Johnson getting that extra track time at the Glen, his Cup crew for the No. 48 Lowe's Impala will handle pit crew duties for the No. 7 NASCAR Nationwide car.

The pit road is reversed at Watkins Glen and the right side of the car is somewhat close to the wall, which presents a set of problems the crews are not used to, so the No. 48 team gets an advantage with the extra pit time.

Dale Jr. has never won at the Glen and has two top-five and one sixth place finish there. Johnson has not won at the track and his record isn't much better than that of Earnhardt's.

It would indeed be an odd turn of events if Johnson would win the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen and a bad run would take Earnhardt Jr. out of the top-10 in points.

You know what they say, "practice makes perfect" and maybe Dale Jr. will have second thoughts about handing his car over to Johnson, even though it seemed to be a good idea at the time.

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