Catching up to the rest of the media types

Oh, in case you missed it, Bruton Smith announced last week that he finalized his deal with Bob and Gary Bahre. For $340 million, he's now the owner of the 1.058-mile facility in Loudon, N.H. -- the track that will host 2 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events this season.

Jerry Gappens officially assumed his role of general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the track's new name.

Yeah, I reported that back in November, like everybody else. I also reported that Gappens was the GM a couple of weeks later. Jokingly, a friend of mine told another friend of mine that I must be behind the times -- because I didn't have anything last week on the blog about the "official" announcement.

OK, now that I've mentioned it all -- again -- do I get a ribbon?


The new Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on display at Daytona International Speedway this week, and he's apparently fitting in quite nicely at Hendrick Motorsports.
Not only was his No. 88 Chevrolet Impala fast in single-car runs during testing at DIS, but he's also taken on the Hendrick personality of refraining from saying anything incendiary.
It's no secret that the rest of the Cup garage has been chasing Hendrick for the last couple of seasons -- and with the COT's debut last season, it became ever more apparent. Now that Junior's in a Hendrick COT, he still wouldn't call out DEI for inferior performance.

"I mean, I really was proud of where I came from and proud of the team that I had last year, and it's hard for me to really put into words without...," Junior said of the difference in the two organizations before stopping himself. "I'd rather -- I choose really not to discuss it that often because I don't want anyone that I've worked with in the past to get the impression that I am in a much better place and much more happier and I've got better people, because it really just comes down to the tools and how you use them."

It's exactly the kind of answer you'd expect from Earhardt, though it's hard to buy that he's not happier now than he was working for his stepmother, whom he had a rocky relationship with.


Doug White, owner of Wiscasset Raceway, may be one of the few people in the area excited about SMI's purchase of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In fact, he went so far as to say he's hoping Bruton Smith does sell off the track's 2 annual Cup dates -- the sooner the better.

As a short track promoter in the area, White knows that if a Cup facility goes belly-up, it leaves racing fans on the lookout for action somewhere. He knows that staying home and watching Cup races on TV only takes you so far, and eventually people want to get out to the track.

Like other promoters in Maine and New Hampshire, he certainly will keep a keen eye on what goes on in Loudon. The loss of NASCAR racing in New England would hurt the overall picture, but short track racing would get a boost.

Either way, we're putting cart way before the horse with any discussion of NHMS Cup dates -- or a lack thereof...


Reverse gear: 2007's Top 10

No. 4

Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaves DEI

"He changed his number!!"

There was once a time when a woman running out of a grocery store, full-on panic sweat rolling while yelling those very words, had NASCAR fans howling. "Oh, yeah, right," they would say to their buddies. "Like THAT would ever happen."

But happen it did. And with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s move to Hendrick Motorsports, an era was ushered out. No more ultra-cool red and white No. 8 Budweiser cars, and no more watching Junior grow up the way you watch a nephew turn into a man.

Now that he's with the most powerful team in the sport, Earnhardt has -- in a gutsy and admirable move -- tossed excuses out the window. There's no more talk of inferior equipment, or of being pulled into the operations side of a race team. Undoubtedly, once the marketing blitz is over that reminds us all to forget about beer forever ("Here, have an AMP instead!"), Junior will only have to worry about driving race cars.

He'll do so, too, as a teammate to 2-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and 4-time champ Jeff Gordon. And while we've had the No. 8 to look at since the passing of Dale Earnhardt Sr. seven years ago, now we'll have an awkward green and white machine with gaudy twin red 8's on its side.

Earnhardt left behind the team bearing his name for a team capable of winning a Cup championship -- now. Early on in 2008, at least, he'll just be trying to get back to victory lane -- a place that shut him out for the entire '07 slate.

He's got a new number. A new marketing ploy, and, hopefully for his legions of biased supporters, new results.