Published September 25, 2013
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – From afar, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has watched Martin Truex Jr.'s body language to see how his former teammate is handling the fallout from Michael Waltrip Racing race-fixing fiasco at Richmond.
He's had a much closer view of the toll it's taken on Clint Bowyer, who triggered the entire controversy when he spun in the Sept. 7 race with seven laps remaining. NASCAR said it could not prove the spin was intentional; should Bowyer admit that, he risks retroactive penalties.
NASCAR did have evidence that MWR attempted to manipulate the finish of the race to get Truex into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. It issued harsh sanctions against the organization that included knocking Truex out of the Chase. In response, Truex sponsor NAPA Auto Parts said it's ending its association with the team at the end of the year.
"It's almost been as hard to watch Clint go through this as it has been to watch Truex go through it, because Clint is a good guy and obviously was just following orders," Earnhardt said. "He did some things that were out of character and regrettable and he feels terrible to have any involvement in it. I know that for a fact. I know that to be genuine.
"It's been tough watching him go through that process, too, because he's not that kind of guy to go starting that kind of mess."
Earnhardt was penalized by NASCAR in 2004 for intentionally spinning to bring out a caution he needed. He admitted his guilt and NASCAR punished him.
Bowyer and MWR have maintained from the very beginning that his spin was not deliberate, but it was the act that set in motion the chain of events that could put Truex out of work at the end of the season. With NAPA pulling its sponsorship, MWR could be forced to shutter the No. 56 team and let go up to 100 employees if funding can't be found in the next two months.
Earnhardt has a long relationship with Truex, who won two titles driving for him when Earnhardt co-owned Chance 2 Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. They then became teammates when Truex moved up to Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Earnhardt was also teammates with Michael Waltrip, and DEI was run by MWR general manager Ty Norris, who was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for the Richmond incident. Earnhardt said he hasn't spoken to Waltrip or Norris.
"I don't really think that there's anything I can share with them that could help them, so I'm not wanting to interject," Earnhardt said. "I get annoyed when people do that so I don't want to be that guy."
As for Truex, he feels for his old friend.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to Truex, but I've kept an eye on him and just seeing his body language, he seems to be handling it pretty well, as good as he can," Earnhardt said. "None of us really know what opportunities are being presented to him. I certainly think he is one of the best drivers in the sport. He has yet to really showcase exactly how good he can be in the car. . It's difficult to watch him have go through this because you know he had nothing to do with none of that stuff that was going on in Richmond."
GETTING PHYSICAL: Not many drivers consider Dover their favorite track.
Mark Martin isn't like many drivers.
The ultra-fit Martin considers the physically demanding Monster Mile his favorite track on the circuit, and heads to the concrete bullring this weekend in the same car Tony Stewart drove to victory in June. It will be Martin's 55th start at Dover, where he has four wins and a series-best eight runner-up finishes.
"I love the way you can attack the race track. I like the banking. I like the shape of it. I've just always enjoyed it," Martin said.
His success there could be due to his fitness training, which Martin detailed in a 1994 book, "Strength Training for Performance Driving." He's updated it since and follows it religiously, as fans can see in near daily Twitter updates.
Martin admits Dover is tough on a driver.
"For the size of the race track, the speeds are really high at Dover. The grip level is really high. And because of the banking, the G-forces are pretty high on you," he said. "The nature of the race track allows you to drive aggressively and slip and slide some. The concrete, specifically, the seams in the concrete, cause the car to kind of snap around here and there. All of that makes Dover a more physical race track because you have to put so much work into each lap. In fact, you can overdrive the car at Dover and not pay a price for it."
GRAND-AM FINALE: Riding a two-race winning streak into the Grand-AM season finale, Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor are in prime position to knock off the three-time defending champions.
The Wayne Taylor Racing duo holds an eight-point lead over Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates headed into Saturday's Rolex Series season finale at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.
The Ganassi team can clinch the team championship by finishing sixth or better Saturday.
Angelelli and Taylor have their eye on capturing the driver title in the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP. It would be just the second championship for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won its first title in 2005 with Angelelli and team owner Wayne Taylor.
Now Taylor's 22-year-old son, Jordan, is behind the wheel in his first year as co-driver with Angelelli. The duo has a series-high four wins this season, and will be trying to win the championship on a course where the team has won the last three seasons.
"Going to Lime Rock with an eight-point lead, it's a little bit of a buffer, but we can't really change what we've been doing all year when things were working," Jordan Taylor said. "I think we go into Lime Rock with the same mindset, just looking to beat the guys we're actually racing for the championship and not get caught up in a race that's going to hurt us in the long run. We'll be watching our contenders throughout the whole weekend."
Angelelli wants a low-key weekend.
"I will personally be playing it conservatively," he said. "But bear in mind that you can only be conservative if you have your opponents under control or behind you, so a lot of what actually happens will be determined by where we qualify, and how the early part of the race plays out. In Grand-AM, nothing is safe until we see the checkered flag."
KIMMEL CLINCH?: Indiana native Frank Kimmel is on the verge of clinching his 10th ARCA Racing Series championship.
Kimmel, driver of the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Toyota, heads to Kansas Speedway with a 315-point lead in the point standings needing only to attempt to qualify for the Oct. 4 race to clinch the title. He got to the cusp of the championship by grabbing his 20th top-10 finish of the season last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.
"It's been a special year because of our consistency," Kimmel said.
Kimmel, 51, last won the series title in 2007. His first championship came in 1998. His 79 all-time series victories is tied for the most in series history with Iggy Katona. The Kansas Lottery 98.9 is the ARCA season finale and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1.