Whats next for NASCAR?s most popular driver?
So NASCAR's golden boy, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., announced yesterday that, after this season, he'll be leaving the race team that his late father founded. If Junior doesn't get hired by a top-running Chevy team, will the foundation of middle America come crashing down?
One thing is almost for certain: his current team, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, won't let him take his car number 8 with him. That commercial in which Junior pretends that he's changing his number--to the horror of dedicated fans with rel8ed hairstyles, tattoos, and other permanent tributes--is about to come to fruition.
Junior says he'd prefer to sign on with an existing, more successful Chevrolet team. And it appears that his longtime sponsor, Budweiser, will follow him in his next move. Based on how many millions (billions?) of dollars they've spent leveraging Dale, Jr., it only makes sense that Chevy and Bud want to stick with him.
But money talks.
And Toyota has a lot more of it to throw around than does GM (which still has a helluva lot more to throw around than Ford or Dodge). So what happens if Junior gets an unprecedented offer from Toyota that he simply can't refuse (particularly if the big T becomes more competitive on the track)? Would Budweiser follow him? Highly unlikely. How about an all-Toyota deal for Junior: the number 80 Toyota Robotics Toyota. Kinda has a nice ring to it, no?
Would such a scenario spell the beginning of the end for NASCAR? Or the start of a new beginning? Or would it kick off a civil war amongst Junior's gargantuan fan base?
"What team I'll drive for next season, I don't know," Junior said yesterday, according to nascar.com. "We'll see who wants to hire me, who is interested in having me drive their race cars, and we'll decide from here."
You can bet the HOV sticker on your Prius that Toyota would absolutely love to hire Dale Earnhardt, Jr.