You can almost hear their voices, can't you:
"Dale? What's going on?"
"I'm kinda tired, Mark."
"Well, take a nap. It's what I do during pitstops."
"No, not that kinda tired. Tired of people making fun of me 'cause I didn't run as well as you other Hendrick guys last year. You don't think I'm a bad driver, do you?"
"Weeeeell ... "
The scuttlebutt on the street is that just as the shops of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson work together, so too will the shops of Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The idea being, of course, that if a guy like Mark Martin can come from out of nowhere and run second in the Sprint Cup, maybe he could help Junior in his long, slow slide from the upper echelons of NASCAR.
And while it's awfully early to start making sweeping generalizations, Mark and Junior are off to a good start. They'll be starting 1-2 in the Daytona 500, with the rest of the positions to be determined by the Gatorade Duels on Thursday.
Of course, nobody's won from the pole at the Daytona 500 since 2000, when Dale Jarrett did it. And nobody's won from the second spot in Daytona since 1993, when -- hey, wait a second -- Dale Jarrett also did it.
At our Bud Shootout chat, Junior Nation was ready to declare Dale back, while everyone else thinks that Junior's Beard has a better chance of making the Chase than Dale himself. (The chat also saw the creation of our first recurring characters of 2010: Junior's Beard and Brian Vickers, henceforth dubbed "Bull Juice." Don't ask why, just accept it.)
So what do you think, Junior fans and Junior haters? Does this portend good news for 2010, or is everybody just getting set up for even more heartbreak?
- Mark Martin