Volume II, Issue 8, Page 6

With John Carollo

I’m one of you. Long before my first article or big name interview and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been a stock car fan. So for that reason, my name doesn’t matter and neither does my photo. It’s more like we’re just sitting here in the grandstand before the race, talking about Chevys and NASCAR. Hey, you want a cold one? --JC

QUESTIONS

8/15/2007

I got questions. Now, there may not be any immediate answers to these brain burners. But events in current Chevy/NASCAR circles have my mind working hotter than brakes at Bristol.

How is the relationship between Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr, gonna play out? This family dynamic could make the Springer show look like church talk. It’s kinda like Rick adopted a son and instead of an age hierarchy, will it work by who’s winning? They may just put the fun in the term dysfunctional family. Consider these points.

At the Hendrick shop, Gordon IS the franchise. He’s grown and matured to take that position. Johnson knows his spot as driver for his two owner/dads, Rick and Jeff, so he has to tread lightly at times. Insert ‘Ol Jr. Where does he fit in? Is he top gun? Is he behind Jeffie? And if he sits down in front of Johnson, will Jimmie have the right to bow up? Remember, this is still back at the Hendrick ranch; we haven’t even packed up the hauler and gotten on the track yet.

At the DEI shop, Jr. IS the franchise. He’s grown, matured and used his power wisely to pick (and mostly win) the right battles with his step Mom. First over the amount of face time he gives sponsors, then for owning his name and most recently, his battle to really truly save DEI from who some call Yoko. So how will smart young Jr. go from being the sled driver to just another team dog with a bad view? (Remind me next year at this time to pull a Dr. Phil and ask him, ‘So, how’s that working for you?’)

When this season is over at Homestead, Jr. will walk out of there unencumbered by anything having to do with DEI - or DOA as some wags are already calling it. We believe his thoughts will be like to a kid fixin’ to go to his first day at a new school. Who are the bullies? Who can be trusted as an ally? How far will Jr. have to stand up so no one will get anything over on him? We’ve all been there. You start a new job and you don’t know too many people. You have to tred lightly at first, but sooner or later, there will be a power situation you’ll have to deal with. Use too much power and you’re considered a (adjective) tyrant. Don’t use enough and you’re everyone’s weenie-boy (rhymes with snitch).

And talk about pressure. Dale Jr. HAS TO perform with Hendrick Motorsports or he will lose altitude and market share, possibly forever. All his results so far have a growth chart look to them. Now he will have to up his consistency to the likes of Gordon and Johnson or it will look like everything that happened before was just because of his last name. Not to worry, Jr. has talent and climbing into a Hendricks Chevy could be like turning on a light switch. That’s not to say the DEI boys aren’t building good race cars – they are.

We’re thinking that right now, none of this is taking up much attention on the part of these Soap Opera principals. They’ve got their own fish to fry with trying to get their respective Chevys into the Chase, win it and get that all important momentum going for next year. And the Championship brings up yet another question. How would it affect Jeff’s position at Hendrick when/if he won the title this year? Would that earn him a great big ‘ol ‘Immunity’ or ‘Head of Household’ medallion?

Next year, when these cats face off in an on-track test of testicular fortitude – and it will happen - who moves up in favorite son standing and who loses points? It’s no secret that good drivers have some ego and we know what happens when two ‘Stars’ lock horns (like close friends Stewart and Harvick?). How much worse will it be when they come from the same shop? Talk about your hostile work environment!

Now I’ll say right here and now that if I could get a dollar for every time Rick Hendrick will have to explain into a tape recorder or camera that there is no pecking order of his drivers and they’re all the same, I could probably fund my own team. And what about those Monday morning meetings after a particularly nasty sword fight on the track the day before? Hey, can I attend one of those and write a story on that? Yeah, just as soon as monkeys fly outta my butt.

And as long as we’re asking tough questions, if I’m Jeff Gordon and I’ve won my championships and along comes Dale Jr. who hasn’t won any and it ends up we’re both making the same money, do I have the right to be officially pissed? When the recent bidding wars commenced, it became clear that the corporate name on the Jr. car would be for record-setting BIG BUCKS. Drivers get some of that money as pay along with a percentage of what they win. So is it fair to Jeff if his new ‘teamie’ is making the same coin as the four-time champ?

Like I said, I got questions. Let’s all watch for the answers.

Oh yeah, Dale Jr, done racked up another accomplishment, he’s a rock star. His love for music has put him in a total of eight (nice number) music videos, with the latest being the song "Rockstar" for the group Nickelback. He’s also been in videos of Jay-Z, Three Doors Down, Staind, Sheryl Crow, Trace Adkins, O.A.R., and the Matthew Good Band.
Jr. says, "It's always cool to be in videos for big-time music artists, because it allows us to branch out and reach a whole group of people we might not reach through racing," We say, don’t give up your day job.

See ya at the races, JC 

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