We all know the old saying: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” But this last weekend at Martinsville, stock car racing fans were given a rare glimpse of an apparent exception to that rule.
Think back over the family history of NASCAR. You’ve got Lee and Richard Petty; Ned and Dale Jarrett; Coo Coo and Sterling Marlin, just to name a few, all father and son Cup stars in their own right. They each left their own legacy on the sport, yet with the son, you pretty much had the same driving style and ethic of the father. Not only on the track, but off the track as well.
This principle not only applies to the tree/apple relationship, but also two apples falling from the same tree. Both apples are generally going to be in the same vicinity, right? Consider Darrell and Mikey Waltrip as an example. Mikey never was the driver that Darrell was, but both have that gift of gab we all love (sarcasm alert!) so much.
Or how about Terry and Bobby Labonte, both champions and generally all around good guys on and off the track. There’s Ward and Jeff Burton; again, with the exception of the speech thing that, according to Jeff, is the result of Ward’s bedroom being on the south end of the house, both were/are talented and respected drivers.
Of course, the list above is not all inclusive, but when it comes to comparing the apple and the tree, two names are glaringly absent and that is none other than Dale Sr. and Dale Jr. No last name needed!
Now I understand that the death of his father was a tragic and terrible time for Dale Jr. and I’m not going to deny that it took unimaginable intestinal fortitude (that’s “guts” for my readers who ain’t used to me using big, $10 words) for him to climb back into that car, but gee… we all had such high expectations! He WAS an Earnhardt, after all. Not only just “an Earnhardt,” but Dale Jr.! He had already shown he knew how to win and even to this day, while I have always said he was a bit overrated as a driver, there is no denying that Dale Jr. is the sport’s most popular and recognizable face.
So what happened?
Here we are, 10 years after Dale Sr.’s death. Dale Jr. is now in what is more than likely the best equipment he will ever be in during his entire career and he came in second!?? At Martinsville?? With THAT close of a finish?? What gives?
Don’t get me wrong; on the one hand, I sort of applaud what he did, or in this case didn’t do, but in all honesty my blood was really pumping when I saw him get back to Kevin Harvick’s bumper last Sunday afternoon (April 3). I mean, be honest, we ALL expected it… the classic “chrome horn” for the win!! And not only did we all expect it, we all (even ironically, the replacement team of the father) would have “forgiven” Dale Jr. for doing it.
It was Martinsville. That’s how it is done there. And while we are being honest with ourselves, we all must admit, whether you’re a Dale Jr. fan or not, we were all disappointed he didn’t do it. For there is no doubt in my mind that, had Dale Sr. been the one in the No. 88 last Sunday, Harvick would not have won two in a row.
But I bet we’re not the only ones shaking our heads. Somewhere, high above, there is a mustached, loving father, while still proud of his son’s efforts, who wishes he could take the young man aside, put his arm around him and say…”Son, that ain’t what I taught you!”
Stay off the wall, (and please note that Kyle Busch was at no time “hated” during the composure of this article!)
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