So last Sunday was the day for the big race. The chance to make your career or to add a very impressive line to your resume. Now this blog isn't about the race per se, as that has been covered ad nauseam in the media. No, this is about the driver who crossed the finish line first, ahead of the other 42 drivers who had started this race........
......Dale Earnhardt Jr. Almost forty, but still carrying the "Jr" designation, that separates him from his famous dad, who died racing during the 2001 500.
Dale senior was the iron man, the toughest driver in NASCAR and one of their two greatest drivers ever (named my first cat after him). Tough act to follow. You carry your father's name into battle and naturally fans expect you to be him. Not the case with Jr, but still a very competent racer with 20 wins to his name in this tough series. No championships yet and maybe never, but that's not the point.
Dale Jr had every chance to be a cocky, spoiled off spring. No doubt being an Earnhardt has helped along the way, but his dad made him struggle thru the lower series, dragging a late model to the small tracks of the south, learning his trade and learning about what it took to be a success. Bit by bit, until he had earned his way to the bigger leagues and then eventually to the "show".
Jr never traded on his family name and was always low key. Never have I read a story about him, involving any sort of scandal or bad behavior (hey Kyle Busch, are you reading this?). Always courteous to the press and to his fans. Eleven times winning NASCAR's most popular driver award. With all his $ and his fame, he's probably the driver who seems to be less affected by it all. Here is a driver who walked away from his family's race team in a effort to find success elsewhere.
Wins have been tough to come by in recent years, but his fan base has held strong (count me in). Whenever he took the lead in any race, the stands reverberated with the cheering. So winning the Daytona 500 was important (as always) and couldn't have gone to a nicer driver.
Maybe this will be the year Dale Jr achieves his break thru and becomes NASCAR's champion, but if not, he still has much to be proud of and his fans will still love him.
Until next time........