Tag Archives: dale earnhardt jnr

Jorge goes for his annual dip

Jerez is Lorenzo's land. (pic Fiat Yamaha)


Bernie may want rain to spice up F1 races but in Moto GP a little precipitation often does the opposite and ruins the fun. This Sunday was a little different though, the rain in Spain allowed for heroics from some and made headaches for others, it all added up to a spectacular race for the hundreds of thousands of moto-mad fans that make Jerez one of the best Grand Prix of the year. It was race of the week from where I was sitting, so it must have been something else trackside.

The substantial crowd may have been cheering Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi but Casey Stoner was hoping to spoil the party after claiming pole position. The Honda rider was the man to beat at Losail and could have done the same on Spanish soil were it not for the rain and an out-of-control Valentino Rossi. During the thrilling early laps The Doctor blasted through from his poor grid spot to trouble Stoner, Lorenzo and Simoncelli at the front until the Ducati rider fell into the path of the Aussie star sending both into the kitty-litter like skittles. While the marshals rushed to Rossi’s aid they left Stoner frustrated and unable to push-start his still race-worthy Honda. Casey lost his championship lead and had a few choice words for Valentino afterwards including the oldie-but-goodie “you ran out of talent” along with some criticism for the race officials themselves.

The two champions weren’t the only ones to visit the gravel; three of the top nine finishes had all spent time on their bums during the Grand Prix before recovering. Simoncelli was perhaps the most unfortunate, after taking Lorenzo and Stoner on successive laps he wobbled his way out of an impressive lead and onto the floor leaving Jorge Lorenzo to take another win at Jerez. And yes, he dived in the pond again although this time he was already soaked by the relentless drizzle. Pedrosa made it a Spanish one-two while Nicky Hayden got the third spot on the podium, a position that nobody else seemed to want including Ben Spies who even got as high up the order as second before falling off.

There were plenty of great rides throughout the Moto GP weekend but it was the paperclip track at Martinsville that provided my racer of the week. Kevin Harvick picked up his second win on the bounce in Sprint Cup competition after shuffling past Dale Earnhardt Jnr in the last couple of minutes, consecutive wins are a rare thing in Sprint Cup especially on such wildly different tracks.

Although Harvick has to be racer of the week, Johnny Sauter deserves a shout for taking a win in the Camping World Trucks on the micro-oval. The presence of Harvick and Busch in Trucks makes a victory in this series so much more valuable to the few who can break their stranglehold. Expect the Kevin and Kyle show to resume next time out though, it’s not often those two get beaten in a Truck and both of them are driving better than ever in 2011. Watch and learn Mr Raikkonen.

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Memories of a black day

2011 marks a decade since Nascar lost Dale Earnhardt on the final corner of the final lap of the Great American Race. It also marks 10 years since my family and I boldly made the trip to the Sunshine State to go and see Nascar for ourselves. Obviously the death of a bonafide hero cast a shadow over our holiday of a lifetime, but for those who truly identified with the Man in Black it will have a cast a far longer shadow over their lifetimes.

As Dale’s life ebbed away his eponymous team took a one-two with Michael Waltrip leading home Dale Earnhardt Jnr; Senior would have followed them home in third place for the perfect family finish had fate not so cruelly intervened.

However tragic the event was in itself, what really humbled me was the atmosphere the following day. We were staying well over an hour away from the track and even out there the grief was palpable. The usual chorus of “missing you already” was gone, the ever-chirpy Florida service industry had wiped the smile from their faces. Perhaps we were so close to the epicentre of it all or maybe Americans wear their heart on their sleeve a little more than the reserved Brits, but to us it felt like a more tangible tragedy than Princess Diana’s death had been back home.

A decade has passed since then and the subject still makes this Limey well-up. Some small consolation came as Earnhardt’s replacement Kevin Harvick took the victory three races later at Atlanta. Then Dale Jnr won the July race at the track that claimed his Dad’s life. To achieve that while going through such a horrible time and thrust under the spotlight placed on him by the good-natured fans that were the younger Earnhardt’s real inheritance, that was real character. Even Jnr’s win in Wrangler colours, carrying the now fabled number 3 at Daytona last year was something special, it never gets old. I guess it’s because these successes are never enough to heal the old wounds, but they do provide some welcome relief.

But what really hit the heart hard was the number 3 salute given by the fans on lap three of every race in 2001. It has to be the most touching gesture from fans of any sport – 150,000 people holding aloft three fingers on the third lap of the race as the commentators hush. This lovely sight returned at Daytona last year as the 3 car took the lead, what a cruel but beautiful sport racing can be. Watch this magic moment here.

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