Spoiled brat Dale Earnhardt Jr. ruins a great race
The most deserving driver did not win the Daytona 500 Sunday.
|Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn't half the driver his late great father was and he has ridden his father's coattails to become the highest paid NASCAR driver|
Junior should be ashamed of himself for one of most blatant cases of reckless driving in recent Daytona 500 history. And so, too, should NASCAR officials for not having the guts to hammer Earnhardt with a stiff penalty.
Remember when the NBA used to have the Jordan Rules? It looks like NASCAR now has its version of the Junior Rules.
Former driver and Fox broadcaster Darrell Waltrip probably spoke for the NASCAR establishment when he said, "I give Junior the benefit of the doubt."
Doesn't Junior always get the benefit of the doubt?
Just a day earlier in a Nationwide Series race, an obscure driver named Jason Leffler was penalized five laps for a much lesser stunt than the one Junior pulled Sunday when his Chevrolet was forced below the yellow out-of-bounds line by Brian Vickers. Junior aggressively swerved back onto the track, hitting the left rear of Vickers' car and sending Vickers into a spin that spawned the nine-car pileup.
Even though Earnhardt insisted that he accidentally hit Vickers, nobody was buying it — especially not Vickers.
"[Leffler] was penalized five laps for doing the same thing," an angry Vickers said. "But I guess they're not going to penalize him [Earnhardt] for it. To wreck somebody intentionally like that in front of the entire field is dangerous."
NASCAR fans have been waiting years for Junior to start driving like his intimidating and iconic father, but this isn't exactly what they had in mind. When Earnhardt Sr. wrecked other drivers, he was usually fighting for the lead. Junior caused the wreck when he was a lap down and fighting for nothing.
And that's what makes this so pitiful — that Junior drove Sunday like some sort of rank amateur in a Saturday Night Trophy Dash at Bithlo Speedway. If this had been 18-year-old rookie Joey Logano causing the accident, it would have been understandable, but Earnhardt is 10-year veteran who is supposed to be one of the top drivers in the sport.
The whole reason he was a lap down to begin with was because of a one-lap penalty for pitting outside of his allotted box. It was Junior's second miscue of the day in the pits.
Busch just shook his head when discussing Earnhardt after the race. He led more laps (88) than anybody, but watched helplessly from the pits as Matt Kenseth, who led a grand total of one lap, somehow won the rain-shortened race
"One guy [Earnhardt] who had problems all day on pit road made his problems our problems," a disappointed Busch said. "It's unfortunate that a guy who messed up his whole day on pit road has to make our day even worse. It cost the winning car a chance to win the race."
And do you want to know what the most disappointing part of this whole sordid mess was? Not that Junior drove like a drunken congressmen Sunday. Not even that he cost perhaps the most talented driver in NASCAR (Busch) the chance to win his first Daytona 500.
No, the most disappointing part was Junior did not take responsibility for anything that happened Sunday.
He whined that NASCAR's one-lap penalty for the pit road violation was unfair. He blamed Vickers for being "reckless" afterward. He said he did nothing wrong even though NASCAR rules clearly state that if a driver is blocked below the yellow line, he's supposed to blend back into traffic.
Earnhardt Jr. didn't blend his way back into traffic Sunday, he bashed his way back in.
Shockingly, NASCAR's most revered racer drove like a bratty kid in a soapbox derby rather than a grown man in the Daytona 500.
Sadly and immaturely, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made sure of it.
The most popular athlete in the sport turned into the most irresponsible driver on the track Sunday when a frazzled and frustrated Earnhardt caused a wreck that inexcusably knocked leader Kyle Busch out of the rain-shortened 500 and eventually allowed Matt Kenseth to win. In your wildest imagination, did you ever think Junior, the sport's most beloved personality, could single-handedly turn the Great American Race into the Great American Disgrace? Orlando Sentinel