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Thursday, December 21, 2006
Updated: December 22, 11:44 AM ET
Door-To-Door: Teresa Earnhardt's criticism silly

By Marty Smith

Teresa Earnhardt's ostensible criticism of her stepson's commitment to his company and trade is baffling. She's been to, what, five races in five years? If that? She's an absentee owner, the most invisible in the sport.

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And you know what? That's OK. It might be too hard emotionally and the team thrives despite her absence.

But if you're not there personally, questioning someone else's desire is unfair at best. Especially the face of the company, the most buoyant float in the oft-tumultuous sea at Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI), the bearer of burden for all 300-plus employees.

These days, owning Nextel Cup teams is largely a hands-off proposition. The best method, according to been there, done that guys like Richard Childress, is hiring specialists and letting them specialize. But make your presence felt. Let the front liners know you're there with them. Let them know you care. Support them. Criticize when necessary.

Teresa Earnhardt's criticism was unnecessary, and though Dale Earnhardt Jr. won't say so personally, very well could be the playground insult that triggers him to punch the bully back.

"Right now the ball's in his court to decide on whether he wants to be a NASCAR driver or whether he wants to be a public personality," she said.

What? Earnhardt was more committed in 2006 than he's been at any time in his career. No offense whatsoever to Max Siegel, the newly appointed president of global operations at DEI -- he obviously knows promotion and marketing and, in my opinion is a great, unique hire.

But I can't help but see irony here, can't help but chuckle that Mrs. Earnhardt would ponder Junior's motivation -- whether he'd rather be a celebrity than a racer -- and then bring in a guy from a record label to preside over a race team.

Hmm …


As I recall, you called the Busch Series sponsor change a long time ago on Who is going to sponsor the series now?

-- Gwendolyn, Boise, Idaho

Wide-open race, Gwendolyn. After speaking with NASCAR officials Wednesday, there is no clear-cut favorite, but all the speculated candidates -- Wal-Mart, Subway, Samsung -- make sense. Ultimately, he who has the most cash and sexiest corporate marketing plan wins.

Whoever it is should approach NASCAR with a strategy akin to that which Nextel presented in 2003. A new sponsor brings a new regime and thus offers the perfect platform for change. The Busch Series needs change, in a big way; needs a company to differentiate it from the Cup level.


This thing has been bugging me for some time now. If NASCAR is going to penalize drivers for speeding on pit road, why in the hell won't they let them have speedometers to accurately gauge their speed?

I can't see any significant argument for drivers to not have speedometers, and I imagine that as an engine wears during a race the RPMs/speed ratio could possibly change. This seems like one of the worst rules in NASCAR.

-- Dave, Concord, N.H.

Great question, Dave -- it does seem a bit primitive to disallow speedometers. NASCAR claims tachometers serve the same purpose as speedometers and, if a speedometer were added, it would add weight to the car and require an additional gear line that could potentially go awry during the course of a race.

Several Nextel Cup crew chiefs backed that up and also said that engine wear during a race would not alter RPM/speed ratios.

Lance McGrew, crew chief for Casey Mears' No. 25 National Guard Chevrolet, said simply:

"Because we have a tachometer, and with pretty simple multiplication, we can figure miles per hour -- and it's one less gauge in the car. Remember, it's all about weight."

Hey Marty,

Can Cup teams use any brand carb -- Holley, Barry Grant, etc.? Also, what is the max size of the carb? Can they hop them up with any jetting they want? Thanks, and keep up the good work.

-- Russell DiBiase, Hayden, Idaho

Nextel Cup teams may only run one particular type of Holley carb, Russell, with a specific part number. NASCAR does allow teams, though, to make virtually endless changes to jets, air bleeds, squirters, power valves, etc. Adjustments are even made to boosters and throttle plates.

Each adjustment is specifically mandated by NASCAR and checked at each race with a series of gauges. Simply put, the carb either fits the gauge or it doesn't.

Side glances

The questions are sparse this time of year, too much figgy pudding filling the cracks in our inquisitive subconscious. But I do have one final anecdote from Paris:

Upon arrival at the Stade de France to take in the Race of Champions Nation's Cup, I was approached by a Parisian reporter with a gleam in his eye. Helluva nice guy, he wanted to discuss some good ol' by-God stars and stripes stock car racin'.

Across the pond he's treading water as a NASCAR fan. He loves it. His European brethren do not. He waits.

As NASCAR drivers go, he said, Jeff Gordon is the man in Europe. (One wonders if the lovely Ingrid has any influence on that sentiment.) He cites last year's RoC, in which Gordon competed, as proof. There was considerably more buzz, he said, than that triggered by this year's battered contingent. Then, he unfolds the laptop for a photo gallery.

First up: a pair of French-Canadian NASCAR fanatics who painted their Monte Carlos in the precise form of those driven by Misters Gordon and Earnhardt. Impressive.

Second: Photos from a race party at a Parisian watering hole. This was interesting. So loyal are the French NASCAR fans that they sector themselves off into "team tables." Photographic proof shows a Joe Gibbs Racing table, a Hendrick Motorsports table and a Dale Jr. table. They weren't screwing around.

Lastly, and by far most impressively, the toilet: It's a standard porcelain john, only safer. Sit down, grab the paper, strap in. This thing had legit racing seat belts affixed to the wall behind the seat. Total five-point harness.

Next thing you know, crappers will be constructed of NASA carbon fiber and the stalls of SAFER material. Stumbling drunks everywhere shall rejoice.

I can't lie. I cried watching "Invincible" on the flight home. When Papale pulls the condor pose and points to his homeboys in the cheap seats … Son! That'll make a man want to strap it on and lay the wood to somebody. I stood up in the aisle, pouring sweat like Bruce Pearl, vein in my forehead pulsing like a fireman's hose, eyes flooded, self-chest-pounding with a closed fist, the whole thing.

The sweet British lady seated next to me leans over, peeks at my screen and says, "I don't know what you're watching, but I want some of that."

DVD's on the shelf. Santa already has my request. Merry Christmas, all.

Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at