a lot to digest after Homestead

NASCAR


We will not replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. — not with one driver, not with 10.

Dale is a symbol of popularity because of his genuine, sincere approach to life.

He has become the most powerful person in NASCAR, and he uses that power in a positive manner: to enhance our sport.

Junior is a rare combination of talent and humility.

I bristle anytime someone suggests he never lived up to expectations. Really?

He has 25 wins and two of those were Daytona 500s.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a champion — he is a champion of the people.

I believe the contributing factor for Matt Kenseth not continuing to compete is the health of our economy.

You see, in a poor economy, a driver of his caliber is invaluable. He won’t tear up a bunch of equipment, and he will almost certainly get you to the playoffs.

But a healthy economy means team owners are willing to take more risk, like selling a young driver to a company for a package with duration.

Team owners would have looked at Kenseth as an insurance policy a few years ago, but they have forgone his services for a bet, and the potential payoff down the road.

I’ve seen this cycle before.

Danica Patrick‘s emotional goodbye from Homestead-Miami’s media center Friday was uncomfortable to witness. It tore at me because she didn’t seem at peace with her decision.

I could relate to what Danica expressed last week. Few of us get to choose our departure from the sport, or at least few get to control the path that leads to the end.

I hope Danica comes to the realization she has had an enormous positive impact in NASCAR.

She gave us something new, she inspired many young women aspiring to compete at NASCAR’s highest level. Winning the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013 was an example.

Danica didn’t warm to the idea of being referred to as “the best female driver” NASCAR has witnessed; she wanted to be considered “a driver,” and that’s it.

I think that was a mistake. I also think she should be proud of what she has accomplished. I’m proud of her.

Before these three drivers said goodbye, Carl Edwards signed off.

It seemed abrupt — it felt spontaneous — but in hindsight, Carl made a decision best for him and his family.

Reports had him cruising on a private boat somewhere in Europe last week. I say good for you, Carl.

I’m impressed he had the strength and courage to leave on his own terms, and it seems he made the right decision.

Two thumbs up: NASCAR’s creation of stage racing deserves credit.

Early on, I dismissed the idea that drivers could give more than 100 percent, but I was wrong. Stage racing created an urgency late in each segment that didn’t exist in prior years, and it contributed enormously to the value of entertainment.

It’s critical for any company to evolve, change with times. NASCAR succeeded at that with this addition in 2017.

We have a fleet of young, talented drivers emerging, and none more encouraging or exciting than William Byron.

Byron is the 2017 Xfinity Series champ, a winner in two of NASCAR’s top three series. Next year he becomes a Cup winner in his rookie season. That’s Jimmie Johnson-like.

The expectations will be high, and he will meet those expectations.

The bottom line

Prior to the 2017 playoffs beginning, I was asked to make my pick of who would be this year’s Champ.

Without hesitation, I said Kyle Busch. At least that’s what my brain was telling me, but my heart said Martin Truex Jr.

In the final 20 laps of Sunday’s championship event, Truex displayed a ton of heart, and the New Jersey native was rewarded for his efforts by accepting the most significant trophy in all of NASCAR.

Truex, from here on out, will be referred to as a former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion.

Five days ago, I penned a story that I was dismissing my brain, going with my heart.

It worked out fine. The lesson here? Always go with your heart.

Happy holidays!



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