Dale Earnhardt Jr. will fit right in at Hendrick Motorsports

6/12/2007 - NASCAR

NASCAR royalty is safe and sound in the Hendrick kingdom. Dale Earnhardt Jr. did the right thing.

Going to Hendrick Motorsports always was the best scenario for Earnhardt. It also was what he really wanted, but Rick Hendrick kept everyone off the scent by declaring no room at the inn.

Hendrick also is expected to make the right decision to jettison bad boy Kyle Busch from the organization. Busch is a better driver than Hendrick newbie Casey Mears but is also a huge headache with behavior issues.

Maybe Busch can replace Earnhardt in the No. 8. A Busch in the Bud car. Perfect.

However, Budweiser might join Earnhardt at Hendrick. That's still unknown. So is the fate of Tony Eury Jr., Earnhardt's crew chief. Hendrick has four strong crew chiefs now.

A few Earnhardt fans will have issues with his going to Hendrick instead of to Richard Childress Racing. They wanted him to follow his father and go to RCR, hoping he might drive the No. 3. That never was an option. Earnhardt had no desire to drive the 3 his father made famous.

His becoming Jeff Gordon's teammate will be tough to swallow for the Earnhardt fans who also are Gordon haters, especially the ones dating back to Dale Sr.'s rivalry with Gordon.

But the smart Junior fans know he made the move that gives him the best chance to win a championship. That's what his father would want.

Busch got off light
NASCAR dropped a big penalty on Kurt Busch last week, but it wasn't enough. He should have been suspended for one race.

Busch came dangerously close to hitting Jason Lee (Tony Stewart's jackman) when Busch pulled right next to Stewart's car on pit road at Dover in a moment of anger. Lee quickly leaped on the hood of Stewart's car to avoid becoming Busch's hood ornament.

The 100-point, $100,000 fine Busch received was the same hit the No. 8 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr. took for a rear-wing violation.

So basically, NASCAR is saying that endangering someone's life is no worse than circumventing the rules.

At worst, the No. 8 team tried to gain an unfair advantage (we won't say it cheated) on the racetrack. Busch could have killed someone.

But NASCAR officials are fearful about suspending a Cup driver for bad behavior during a race because it sets a precedent.

What if Earnhardt or Gordon did the same thing Busch did after Busch was suspended? NASCAR would have to suspend one of them for a race, resulting in angry fans who had tickets for that event.

Too bad. Maybe you buy tickets to a Yankees game because you think Roger Clemens will pitch that night but they change the rotation and Clemens pitches a different day.

That's the chance you take. The same should apply to a NASCAR race. You don't get your money back if your favorite driver gets suspended.

Danica. Playboy. Racy.
Danica Patrick is featured in the July issue of Playboy.

No, she's not nude, but I got your attention, didn't I? However, she is provocatively posed, lying over a tire, wearing a low-cut minidress and high heels.

Patrick was asked 20 questions, mostly racing-related. Among them was whether she would go to NASCAR.

"It would take a seat on a team that wins races," she said. "That's most important. I don't want to start at the bottom when I'm at the top now."

Clarification: Her Andretti Green Racing team is near the top. Patrick hasn't reached that status yet, but she's getting closer to her first victory.

Patrick's third-place showing at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend was a career best, proving her improvement on high-banked ovals. But three of the top drivers -- Dan Wheldon, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon -- were involved in a crash with 31 laps to go.

Nevertheless, Patrick could win a race this season. If she does, how long before the Nextel Cup team owners start calling her? If they have her cell phone number, about 30 seconds.

Game notes
Chevrolet drivers have won 12 consecutive Cup races, but the non-Chevy drivers like their chances this weekend at Michigan.

Chevy drivers didn't win either Michigan event last year. Kasey Kahne won for Dodge a year ago, and Matt Kenseth posted a Ford victory at Michigan in August.

The only loss for Chevy this season has been Kenseth's victory at California, a 2-mile oval almost identical to Michigan.

Only one of the top-five finishers at Michigan last June (Dale Earnhardt Jr. in third) was in a Chevy. In each Michigan event last year, six of the top 10 drivers were in Fords or Dodges.

So if a Chevy driver wins Sunday, running the table the rest of the way isn't out of the question.

Go fast or go home
In the NHRA, your ranking doesn't help you make the field. The best racers in the NHRA sometimes don't make the show.

Brandon Bernstein failed to qualify for the NHRA Top Fuel field this past weekend, the second time this season Bernstein hasn't made it. But he's still second in the standings, only 31 points behind Rod Fuller.

Ron Capps didn't qualify at Topeka, Kan., two weeks ago, but he leads the Funny Car standings. Robert Hight suffered his first DNQ this past weekend, dropping him 140 behind Capps.

And NHRA legend John Force qualified for a record 395 consecutive events before missing the Funny Car show at Las Vegas.

The top 16 on elapsed time make it. No exceptions -- unlike in NASCAR, where the top 35 are guaranteed a spot.

Michael Waltrip missed his 12th of 14 races this past weekend at Pocono, but 12 drivers with slower qualifying speeds than Waltrip were on the starting grid.

All six drivers who didn't qualify were faster than the last three drivers who made the race.

Show Victory Junction the money
A technical glitch by DISH Network last week caused thousands of viewers to miss the main event of the Prelude to the Dream telecast, the dirt track race at Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway.

It was a $24.95 pay-per-view telecast on HBO, so some people have asked for their money back.

Some of that money was going to the Victory Junction Gang Camp. For viewers who ask for a refund, DISH still should donate the money that would have gone to the camp.

He calls 'em like he sees 'em
At 18, Champ Car rookie Graham Rahal hasn't done this long enough to couch his feelings before speaking. If only there were more like him. He says what he thinks and doesn't care who likes it.

Rahal was involved in a crash with Dan Clarke on Sunday at Portland, the second time this season they have bashed into each other. Clarke's nickname is Speedy Dan, but Rahal has a new nickname for him.

"Once we caught up to 'Stupid Dan,' which is what I'm going to call him from now on, he just drove me off the road and that was that," Rahal said.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.