Things were looking up for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 8 DEI Chevy team at the beginning of NASCAR's first road course weekend. He qualified 10th and charted the fourth fastest time during final practice. Those were the only things that went...
Things were looking up for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 8 DEI Chevy team at the beginning of NASCAR's first road course weekend. He qualified 10th and charted the fourth fastest time during final practice.
Those were the only things that went right.
Not even three laps had expired before Earnhardt made contact with the No. 0 Chevy of Mike Bliss, eventually spinning and smacking the wall. The No. 8 Chevy sustained heavy damage and had to be taken back to the garage on the tow truck.
"I didn't have first or second gear from the first lap," said Earnhardt who finished 42nd. "We tried a new transmission here and it hadn't given me troubles all weekend. Right there from the first corner, there wasn't no second gear. I couldn't get into second. Then it just tore it all out.
"I just couldn't get out of the guy's (Bliss) way. I'm sorry I got into Mike (Bliss). I didn't know who was where. My car wasn't in gear at the time I got hit. I don't know. That transmission - the thing must have been made out of aluminum. It tore all to heck. It's disappointing."
Earnhardt's season has in essence come apart the last few weeks. Even personnel changes haven't stopped the hemorrhaging. Eight finishes of 17th or worse have mired Earnhardt 14th in points, 543 behind the leader.
Desperate attempts to get momentum going for Earnhardt have failed. No matter how you consider the situation this team hasn't ran well since Teresa Earnhardt's decision to switch the No. 15 and the No. 8 teams at the end of last season.
Even with Daytona just one week away Earnhardt's confidence has got to be the shaken. Does he have the grit to stop the freefall? Will Teresa find the band-aid that prevents this team from slinking into the shadows for the rest of the season?
As it is, if this were any other team, the media coverage would have already grown dark. The spotlight would not be shining as bright, pointing out every mistake, every wrong turn.
The Chase for the Championship is slipping away from NASCAR's biggest public relations draw. If the correct management team is not in place at DEI then someone needs to plug the leak before the whole ship goes down.
The time has come for someone, anyone to stand up and take responsibility. Answers should be forthcoming, it is expected that Teresa Earnhardt, who has remained mum all season on the woes of the No. 8 team, will address the media at Daytona. Frankly, she has to.
Earnhardt doesn't have the answers to the deluge of questions about why is he running poorly. He isn't equipped to handle the inquisition. All Earnhardt knows is things were working last year and this year they simply are not.
"We are in control of this," Earnhardt said. "So, we need to not make these mistakes. The transmission was a new, trick transmission and it didn't work.
"So, last year's transmission was pretty good."