|02/07/20||The Definitive Top Ten Stories for 2020|
|04/25/19||NASCAR is at the Quarter Post|
|05/15/18||Let's Be Real!|
|04/19/18||The season's top seven high notes|
EXIT STAGE LEFT
This Sunday, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt
Dale Jr. captured the heart of millions in a way that's seldom seen in sports. He didn't do it by winning he did it by being honest and vulnerable. Many fans supported Dale because of his lineage but many others did it because they felt it was the right thing to do.
He lost his father in the most public way possible, that alone is hard to imagine. A lot of folks felt it was their duty to support him and in some way, help raise a young likable guy who was now fatherless. Support him they did, 14 times the most popular driver as voted on by the fans. This is all the more remarkable because he didn't pile up big numbers or championships. What he did was touch their souls with humility and sincerity, two qualities that are easy to love. He will be missed and his absence will leave a void, yet in time that void will be filled by another.
Matt Kenseth exits after Sunday and not of his own choosing. Make no mistake he was shown the door by Joe Gibbs Racing. They had to make the choice to go younger and cheaper with Erik Jones or keep Matt in the stable, youth won out. Matt has a very loyal Midwest following and his dry wit was the stuff of legend in the garage. All he did was be successful, 39 wins, 2 Daytona 500 wins and a Championship. His next stop will be the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
He was for the most part low-key in his career but on occasion could flash hot. Just ask Joey Logano about a little run-in at Martinsville, he can testify to it. I always found Matt very approachable and unassuming; two traits that are in short supply these days. I got to call his first win at the Coca-Cola 600. For whatever reason Matt excelled at SMI tracks where PRN broadcast.
Finally, it looks like this could be Danica's last NASCAR race.
She came into the sport on a tsunami of hype not all of her own making. There is no way any driver alive could have lived up to those imagined expectations. If there had been any real on-track success Danica would still be racing in NASCAR. She is marketable and internationally the best know driver in the garage, but without trophies that will only take you so far. I don't celebrate her leaving because I truly think diversity in the driver mix is one of the key essentials in keeping this sport alive. She has planned well for life after racing so don't expect to see her working at the local pizza place.
So in summation, Dale Jr. leaves the racetrack a beloved icon but with career stats that left us wanting more. Matt Kenseth leaves after a remarkable career with the comfort of knowing he can still win races. For Danica,
I for one will miss seeing all three of these drivers in the 2018 Daytona 500 lineup.