If you do not watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup series regularly, you may assume that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick are the sport’s biggest stars. You may know about Jimmie Johnson too, because he won all those championships recently.
Of those three, though, Johnson is the only one that gets the attention he truly deserves. Danica and Dale are the problem with NASCAR right now. The sport’s most notable stars are not their best drivers. Heck, in the case of Patrick, she’s not even good.
Before you paint me as some sort of chauvinist, though, keep in mind I believe Patrick and Earnhardt are highly overrated. I am all for a female driver, but she better be good, and earn her place. But she does not belong anywhere near the Sprint Cup series. She has ONE career victory on all the circuits she has raced on. In 27 career races in the Nationwide Series, she has only one top five finish and three Top 10s. If her name was Dan Patrick, no one would know who she is. She’s a novelty, and maybe not even the best one. Can we find a better female driver? If you want to find a better-looking one, I’d go with Milka Duno of the IRL, too.
Being part of “Junior Nation” is like being a Chicago Cubs fan. There’s lots of tradition, but the results are never there. Junior has one win in the last six years. It’s almost like watching Tony Romo drive a racecar. Constant underachieving. Junior is always teasing his fans, a lot like the Cowboys of recent years, or the Cubs when they have been in contention. There’s always flashes of promise, but the end result is usually disappointing. Junior has been a chronic disappointment since 2005.
Now, Hendrick Motorsports is also looking like the Sprint Cup series’ most overrated team. Maybe that is where Danica should end up. They have the overhyped Earnhardt, and Kasey Kahne, who has been nothing but a big tease for most of his career, especially over the past six years. As much as I hate to say it, because he is a great guy and maybe the most likable person in all of professional sports, Jeff Gordon is no longer a true championship contender. He’s a perennial possible Top 5 guy, which is not bad, but steps down from what he used to be. Hendrick Motorsports was known as the “Yankees of NASCAR” a few years ago. Now they resemble the Don Mattingly era Yankees more than the teams of recent years. Johnson is Mattingly, the lone hope with just not enough around him.
Every time Danica slams into a wall, or Earnhardt finishes outside the Top 10, you can only shake your head. Real NASCAR fans know who the real stars are. Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth may not do sexy commercials, and Greg Biffle does not have the lineage or marketability of a Junior. But I’ll take them every time over the overhyped “stars” who are drawing too much unwarranted attention.