We may never know. We have been spared the unthinkable. We don’t have to wonder if the world as we know it will change. At least not this week.
Have to confess that I was shocked (shocked!) to learn that Dale Jr. was not guaranteed a spot in last Saturday’s All Star Race in Charlotte. Although he won the race in 2000, he exceeded the ten-year window that win guaranteed a slot in the race. Junior would have to race his way into one of two slots available—OR fans would have to VOTE him into the 23-car field.
All Star Week festivities in Charlotte capture the attention of just about every NASCAR fan. From the Pit Crew Challenge to the Sprint Showdown to deciphering the format of the All Star Race, the event is a blast! Watching the top 23 drivers compete in the 90-lap shoot-out with a $1,000,000 winner-takes-all prize rockets this race to an extreme level of excitement.
Truly, no one wants to rely on fan votes to secure a spot in this line-up. Not Dale Jr., NASCAR’s favorite driver for the last century. A driver so popular that the Junior Nation might just assume he’d get the fan vote—as he did in 2011—and then somebody else could grab that spot. It could happen, really. Conceivably. Well, maybe.
Luckily, Junior took charge, winning the showdown by a wide margin, giving the fan-vote honors to Bobby Labonte. Too bad NASCAR doesn’t release the vote counts—that could prove interesting.
NASCAR dodged a potential crisis Saturday. IF—and make that a huge if—the All Star Race had not included Dale Jr. would the race’s TV ratings have plummeted to even further unacceptable lows?
All this said somewhat in jest. Truth, though, NASCAR needs Junior to win a race just as much as Dale Jr. wants to win a race. Earnhardt is the sport’s best ambassador, and he generates excitement on the track. Just listen to the crowd whenever the 88 car takes the lead. The roar is unmistakable, even through the speakers on your television. In person, the crowd generates an unimaginable fever pitch.
THE win is coming… the way Junior’s racing, betting sooner rather than later. Maybe Michigan. Maybe Daytona. But Dale Jr. will capture that checkered flag.
But in the meantime, the sun still rises. Sports fans argue Rangers vs. Devils; Red Sox vs. Yankees; Kurt Busch vs. The World. Congress continues its dysfunctional course. Politicians promise change. The world as we know it still exists.
On second thought…
- Dale Earnhardt Jr Wins The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Showdown (rantsports.com)
- NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins Sprint Showdown, A.J. Allmendinger Second (atlanta.sbnation.com)
- Kurt Busch Comments, Dale Jr., and Michael Andretti News (realclearsports.com)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins Sprint Showdown (theglobeandmail.com)
- NASCAR: Fantastic All-Star Race Undermined by Runaway Final Segment (bleacherreport.com)