I was once an esteemed member of the Media, so I hesitate to take shots at the institution … well, okay, so maybe I wasn’t really esteemed, but, I was definitely a member of the Media. Anyway, my point: Five races in, I’m dumbfounded by the Fourth Estate’s willingness to heap scorn on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and bury the No. 88 team.
If, as some writers do, you establish Kyle Busch, the driver Earnhardt replaced at Hendrick Motorsports, as the barometer, Jr. comes 15th in a two-man race: Busch has won 10 of the last 41 races. Jr. has won nine of his last 185 races. Busch has won twice this year and is fourth in points. Earnhardt has one top-10 and he’s 19th.
For the love of Pete, we get it: Jr. the driver hasn’t lived up to the hype or met the expectations of the faithful. Or his own. Fine. We get it. He gets it. Tony Jr. gets it. Mr. Hendrick gets it. The sheep herder in Outer Mongolia gets it.
Nevertheless — we’re five races into the season! If his last three races haven’t set the world on fire, they’ve been solid enough to help him climb from 35th in points to 19th. In what world is that not seen as positive? To his credit, Earnhardt appears to have things in perspective.
"Well, to be honest with you, it’s not that hard to stay positive until you get around the media," he told reporters after Sunday’s race at Bristol. "I mean, you guys have to take a little responsibility for being so hard on everybody …"
If, by Race No. 23, Jr. and the No. 88 team are still mired in 19th, these endless questions and repetitive stories will be more than appropriate. But five races in?