Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No more excuses for Dale Jr.

   Let's be honest here.

   Ever since Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved to Hendrick Motorsports and it became clear the change was not going to live up to expectations the legions of Earnhardt fans have been looking for someone to blame.

   First it was crew chief Tony Eury Jr. Now, it's crew chief Lance McGrew. And along the way have been the ridiculous accusations that Earnhardt's team didn't get the "best" stuff at HMS, that somehow there was some behind-the-scenes effort to jeopardize Earnhardt's performance.

   While I found the timing of team owner Rick Hendrick's decision to reorganize three of his Sprint Cup programs odd, I'm glad he did it the way he did. Earnhardt isn't just getting a new crew chief, he is getting a whole new team.

   Everything and everyone that have been working on Jeff Gordon's team in recent seasons will now become Earnhardt's. The cars, the personnel, even apparently the pit crew that was used by teammate Jimmie Johnson in the final weeks of the season, will become Earnhardt's next year.

   Yes, Gordon did not win a race in 2010, but there is no question he was a serious contender for many wins and a legitimate title contender. The uniqueness of Hendrick's move has provided something that could likely prove to be a top story in 2011 - no excuses for Earnhardt or his fans.

   I don't believe that Earnhardt suddenly lost all the talent he had when he racked up 18 career Cup wins, but neither do I believe that everyone and everything Hendrick has put to work with Earnhardt since he arrived at HMS has somehow been "sub par."

   There is another answer. And I think in 2011 we might finally find out what that is.