Junior on verge of breaking through
Dale Earnhardt Jr. came close to a win for the second week in a row Sunday. I would tell them to just keep doing what they are doing. Two weeks ago, Dale Jr. had a strong car all race long and, but for a cup full of gas, he would have won the Coca-Cola 600.
What is really impressive and says a lot about their team is that they overcame so much Sunday at Kansas. They had to work on that car all race long. Let’s face it: The No. 88 almost went down a lap early. Dale Jr. even spun out, which brought out the caution. He actually lost only four or five spots, and by the end of the day they were still in position to almost win the race.
That’s why they don’t need to do anything different. They just need to keep doing things the way they are. Look how hard it is to even get a win in today’s Sprint Cup series. Look at Denny Hamlin from a year ago if you don’t believe me. The No. 11 car won eight races last year, and this year they don’t have a single win.
Look at our reigning Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson. He has only one win this year. Before he won at Talladega in April, Jimmie hadn’t won since the Dover race in September. So my point again is it is just so hard to win.
I still maintain that a win for the No. 88 car is just around the corner. Actually, we have seen it before in our sport, so I bet after they get that first one under their belt, more will follow.
Tony Stewart is another one who is really close to taking the checkered flag. He was good both weeks in Charlotte and on Sunday was in position to possibly win at Kansas.
No one outside of the team really knows how close they were on fuel, but I have to admit I was somewhat surprised to see Tony bring the No. 14 car to pit road when he did. In all fairness, Tony raced differently than race winner Brad Keselowski did. Tony’s in the top 10 in points, so I am sure that weighed heavily on their decision to play it safe by getting more fuel.
On the other hand, Brad did exactly what I would have done. He’s 25th in points, and remember, you have to be in the top 20 to even be eligible for the two wild-card slots. So he rolled the dice on the fuel.
Now he has a win under his belt. As we have said all season, win and you are probably in. The two drivers with the most wins who didn’t make the top 10 but are in the top 20 following the September Richmond race will be selected to fill out the 12-car Chase field.
The emphasis is on winning like never before. Go watch Dale Jr.’s postrace interview if you don’t believe me. Last year he probably would have traded one of his kinfolk for a second-place finish. On Sunday you heard how disappointed he was at finishing second. That speaks volumes to what a difference a year makes.
Also, adding those two wild-card slots has had a huge impact on how guys race. This is the first time in a very long time that the race to the Chase will be just as exciting as the Chase itself.
So we have closed the book on our 11th year of "NASCAR on FOX" televising the races. It’s hard to believe it’s over. There has just been something different this year. Our sport has a great product that we are putting on the track each and every week. The racing is awesome and the finishes are dramatic. Mother Nature also played a big role in our FOX season because we didn’t have any weather-related issues.
This year is a clear signal that we are back to the old NASCAR. This is the NASCAR that Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and I made our living in during all those years driving and working on race cars. You have to tip your hat to the fans, to NASCAR, to the drivers and the teams. We, as a sport, are putting out a great product, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.