With sport's shortest off season nearing its end I can already begin to feel the excitement of the upcoming Daytona 500 and the beginning of NASCAR's top tier series which will now be called the "Sprint Cup." It's amazing how often sponsors' names change over short periods of time and this is perhaps most noticeable when it comes to stadiums and arenas. The difficult part for us fans is what to do with all of our merchandise (particularly clothing) bearing the now old sponsor's name and our urge to acquire the new merchandise. Hmmm…marketing genius!
February 9th will feature the annual Budweiser Shootout which includes a field of pole winning drivers from last season as well as past winners of the event and just eight days later the actual season will get started with one of racings' most sought after titles, the Daytona 500. What makes this season even more special for me though is the debut of Dale Earnhardt Jr. with his new Hendrick Motorsports team!! Last season was amazing being able to cheer for my 2 favorite drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as they battled for the Nextel Cup in dominating fashion and with Dale Jr. joining the Rick Hendrick family, this season will be filled with even more excitement. The only problem being that I'll want them all to win each week! 😛
I have no doubt that Dale Jr. would have made the Chase last season had it not been for so many DNF's caused mainly due to engine failures and he suffered a record number of them in incredible disappointing fashion…many times while competing for a possible win. With Hendrick's reliable equipment and his engine woes now behind him I'm really looking forward to seeing Dale Jr. return to victory lane and compete for the championship this season. I've read so much about how great it is to be a part of the Hendrick family and I'm so happy that Dale Jr. chose to race here! With so much experience among Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Jr. I'm sure they're going to work together so well and unlike the atmosphere at some other teams, Hendrick Motorsports is truly like a family where everyone helps each other and aims to accomplish what's best for the organization as a whole. Casey Mears is also coming off his best season yet and he has so much potential to succeed as well! With the departure of the extremely talented Kyle Busch and the addition of the sports' most popular driver…all eyes will be on Dale Jr. this season to see how he performs in his new outfit as well as Kyle Busch's success at his new home at Joe Gibbs Racing. I have little doubt that the two drivers will be compared all season long but with that I also have no doubt that Dale Jr. will have a great season this year! Hmmm…I'm thinking dream team!! But let's not compare Hendrick Motorsports to the New York Yankees…not for a second! The New York Yankees are now and for some time have been built on free agency and large contracts enticing players but Hendrick Motorsports found a large part of its success in "home grown" talent with Jeff Gordon and the later addition of Jimmie Johnson who was actually mentored and recruited by Gordon who saw the true potential in him. Dale Jr. now brings his undeniable talent to the trio and now I officially have 3 favorite drivers whom to cheer for each race day! 🙂 As part of my late Christmas present my brother has given me my first official Dale Jr. merchandise which includes his 2008 calendar and a frost mug! :)…and to commemorate Jimmie Johnson's 2007 Nextel Cup Championship…
…my brother also gave me this beautiful display case! 🙂 Jimmie Johnson's back to back Championships marks the first time the feat has been accomplished since team mate Jeff Gordon last accomplished it in 97' and 98'.
The COT will run full time this season and if last season was any indication, Hendrick Motorsports' dream team should be having a dream of a season!! 🙂