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Monday, May 30, 2011

Was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. the victim of bad karma?

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.Image via WikipediaIn the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a member of Junior Nation. I came to appreciate the sport after 2001, so I wasn't around when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died. Therefore, I didn't inherit an automatic affection for Dale, Jr. like other members of Junior Nation.

The finish of the Coke 600 at Charlotte last night didn't make anyone happy, unless of course you consistently root for Kevin Harvick. He really pulled one out of his ...ah...hat. Congratulations to Kevin.

But this isn't about the win--it's about the loss. We all know that if you don't come in first, you lose.

Dale, Jr. lost last night.

While it looked like he was going to battle hard with Kasey Kahne at the end for the win, it just wasn't meant to be. Who could have predicted that not only would Kahne run out of gas, but that Junior, who it appeared had all the stars aligned in his favor, would fall short as well?

I can't help but wonder if Junior's demise wasn't the fault of bad karma perpetuated by NASCAR--NASkarma, if you will.

In a recent interview with Dale, Jr., conducted by Kenny Wallace on Race Day, Wallace asked Junior how he felt about NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France making the claim that Dale, Jr.'s success is directly tied with the success of NASCAR.

For me, that was an aha moment.

I hope Kenny didn't get into trouble for letting that cat out of the bag on national television. It appears Wallace had some prior intelligence on the subject. Perhaps he heard it from France first hand; or maybe he read a quote from France. Either way, it was news to me that France would admit to such a thing, which reconciled my own feelings that NASCAR shows favortism to Dale Jr., the sport's most popular driver.

I was angry at hearing this admission, even though I and so many other NASCAR fans have long held the suspicion that NASCAR and commentators tied to his father, obviously and blatantly favor Dale Jr.

So, it is very possible that favortism crept into the end of last night's race. A multi-car wreck happened on the next to last lap, under green. Had it been any other driver in the lead, NASCAR officials probably would have and should have thrown a caution. But when it looked like Dale, Jr. was going to cruise to victory, it no longer mattered what happened in the back of the field.

I admit that my belief that NASCAR is not entirely consistent in its calls, may color the way I see this. That is my bias. But my bias is insignificant. It doesn't hurt or help anyone. I have no power over the sport, the thousands of dollars earned, anyone's reputation, or the future of careers. I'm just a fan with an opinion.

But if the sanctioning body has such a bias, as many suspect, that is just plain wrong. Treating drivers and teams differently is wrong.

The sad irony is that the one probably hurt the most is Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the one person NASCAR wants to protect. Junior has been put in an untenable position, which heaps additional undue pressure upon him, and likely makes it more difficult for him to achieve success.

It is entirely possible that it was karma that caused Dale Junior to run out of gas on the last lap when he seemingly had it in the bag. It was NASkarma.
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