Saturday, October 27, 2007

Back to NASCAR

By Bobby

An interesting note came from ESPN about Monday's "Car of Tomorrow" test plans, and how they reflected a reference to Dale Earnhardt Jr and his grandfather:

Although Casey Mears and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will test with their 2008 teams at Atlanta, they will not drive cars branded with their 2008 numbers. Mears, who will drive the #5 (Kellogg's / CarQuest) Chevy next season, will run his customary #25 National Guard/GMAC paint scheme during the two-day session. Earnhardt, who is slated for the #88 Chevy in 2008 (which is the new number of the current #25 team -- they will have the 2007 #25 points for purposes of the All Exempt Tour policies, similar to golf's tour policy), will test a #5 car at Atlanta. To commemorate his first laps with Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt will sport a "throwback" #5 All-Star Racing Chevy during next week's Atlanta test. Earnhardt's Impala SS will feature a red and white paint scheme identical to the first car campaigned by teamowner Rick Hendrick in Cup-level competition. Then known as "All-StarRacing," Hendrick Motorsports fielded the car with driver Geoffrey Bodine in 1984. The #24 and #48 teams of Hendrick Motorsports will not attend next week's Atlanta test. (Hendrick PR) (10-27-2007)

That means Earnhardt will be testing a car painted to resemble Hendrick's first Cup car, prepared jointly by Hendrick and Earnhardt's grandfather Robert Gee. Hendrick and Gee had prepared a Late Model Sportsman (Nationwide) car the previous year for Earnhardt's father, who had divorced Gee's daughter a few years previously, to run in a 1983 race at Charlotte, which Senior won.

Ironically, Gee, who died in 1994, has his children at JR Motorsports preparing the #5 Lowe's and #88 US Navy Nationwide Series cars. Brothers Jimmy and Robert Jr, and sister Brenda Jackson (Dale Jr's mother) work for JR Motorsports. Because of sponsor conflicts with Hendrick (National Guard) and JR (Navy), Earnhardt cannot drive the #88, which has a full-time driver with an interesting story. Brad Keselowski toiled in underfunded family equipment and later in underfunded teams, the last of which folded because of the owner's health. He received a call from the 2006 Craftsman Truck Series championship team to drive the team's second truck after its driver was suspended one race for unsportsmanlike conduct. After nearly winning the NCTS race at Millington, TN, his stock rose, and Earnhardt gave Keselowski a shot in his US Navy car, and it seems he will race a full season next year for the operation which is now a "satellite" Hendrick operation, with five different drivers alternating as his teammate --Earnhardt, Casey Mears, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Landon Cassill -- in the Lowe's #5 next season.

Now that's a bit of nostalgia for sports fans, but is just the next step in the popular trend of wearing older-era jerseys, giving today's fans a piece of yesterday's jerseys. The Cleveland Cavaliers have a "third" jersey where the team wears the Ron Harper, Mark Price, Brad Daugherty-era jerseys.

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