Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011 | 4:58 p.m.
The most popular driver in NASCAR has managed to get into Chase by the skin of his teeth. He's had his share of ups and downs, but Dale Jr. and the crew of the No. 88 car have shown improvement this season.
So it's no surprise that team owner Rick Hendrick renewed Earnhardt's contract earlier this month. The new contract will keep him with Hendrick Motorsports until 2017.
Is this a good deal for Hendrick? I think it is. Despite the fact that Earnhardt has struggled to meet the expectations of the fans, the media and NASCAR, it's too early for Hendrick to throw in the towel on his investment. Forget the fact that Earnhardt is a merchandising dream come true and has the star power to bring in sponsorships, but abandoning the driver of the No. 88 car at this time when he's showing improvement, would be premature. I still think Earnhardt has the talent and the potential to win. But the same old question that continues to dog him is whether he has the drive to win.
Rick Hendrick has a lot riding on comeback of the sport’s most popular driver. I’m sure he doesn't want to be known as the team owner who couldn’t bring Earnhardt back to victory lane, especially since Hendrick Motorsports has the best resources and some of the most talented people in the business.
Meet the new Kurt Busch, same as the old Kurt Busch. While his younger brother seems to be on the road to maturity, Kurt is reverting back to the old path he's traveled before. For a number of years, the Kurt we've seen in front of the TV cameras has been a packaged, prepped and scripted speaker who always came across a little insincere. You have to give Kurt credit for recognizing that his outbursts needed to be curtailed. But when he takes his frustration out on members of the media and rips up a press release in the media center, as he did this weekend, he set back the progress he may have made regarding his image makeover. I suppose there's no way Kurt can win. If he's nice, he looks phony. If he's himself, he can look like a jerk. The question now is: Will his anger interfere with his ability to concentrate on winning a championship?