Friday, April 8, 2011 | 4:12 p.m.
What were you thinking as Dale Jr. saw his chances of breaking his winless streak crushed by an aggressive Kevin Harvick at Martinsville? You were probably thinking the same thing that went through my mind and the minds of several of my friends: If Dale Jr.’s dad were behind the wheel of the No. 88, he would have roughed up Harvick and taken the win.
It’s natural for anyone who experienced the Dale Earnhardt era to play the comparison game. Fans miss the charisma and dogged determination that set him apart from other drivers of his time—and those fans would like to see someone like that in the sport again. As a result, we can’t help but project those aspirations onto Earnhardt’s son. But is that fair?
No it isn’t. Dale Jr. is not his father—and he shouldn’t try to be and we shouldn’t expect him to be. Dale Jr. would come across as a cheap imitation and a phony if he tried to be a carbon copy of his father. Sure we can sometimes see resemblances to his dad in certain things he does or says, but the driver of the No. 88 is smart to be himself and concentrate on being the type of driver that he is comfortable being.
And you have to look no further than his post-race interview to see how that is the case. After expressing his frustration with not being able to get around Harvick for the win, he stated that he didn’t want to be the bad guy. Obviously his dad would have taken the opportunity to be the bad guy by rattling Harvick’s cage. And although we may have wanted to see Jr. display that killer instinct, that isn’t him. And we have to respect him for that.
Then again, if Dale Jr.’s winless streak continues, he may become hungry enough to find his inner Dale Earnhardt.