Certainly there have been worse transactions in the history of sports. Take your pick:

The Red Sox selling Babe Ruth so they could finance a Broadway musical. The Baltimore Colts forcibly dumping pouty Sanford rookie QB John Elway for Mark Hermann and a couple of offensive linemen. The Dodgers trading promising Pedro Martinez for second baseman Delino DeShields.


But somewhere down the line, in the zip-zip world of stock car racing, comes this one:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. for Kyle Busch.

It really wasn't a trade, per se, but it was definitely a choice for Rick Hendrick in 2007.

He chose to dump Busch, then a temperamental young buck, to make room for Earnhardt on his talented motor sports team. Earnhardt was a free agent who wanted out of the contentious DEI team.

The Hendrick Motorsports empire certainly hasn't suffered. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin have made sure of that. But Earnhardt most definitely is the weakest link.

He hasn't qualified for the Chase the last two seasons, although he is in better shape now, hanging onto one of the last slots with two races to go before the qualifying cutoff in Richmond, Va.

He remains NASCAR's most popular driver — he has won the award, voted by fans, for eight consecutive seasons. But his professional profile is kind of like the Tim Tebow deal in the NFL.

Tebow had the third-best selling jersey in the NFL last season, but he might be the third-string QB on the Broncos' depth chart this season.

Go figure.

During his popularity run, Earnhardt has finished 25th and 21st in the standings. It marks the worst two years of his career.

Busch, meanwhile, keeps cruising along. He is first in the Cup standings, and has a season-high four victories on the circuit.

Busch has 104 victories in NASCAR's top three divisions. He is only 26, and has great potential to chase down Richard Petty and his NASCAR career record of 200 victories.

He has proved to be a much better driver than the often-sputtering marketing machine Hendrick has on his hands.

Any bashing of Hendrick comes with a lot of disclaimers. Just look to see who else he has driving for him to see how great he is at identifying talent.


Yet you have to wonder if like so many other people, Hendrick was smitten by Earnhardt mostly for his marketing pizazz and not his driving ability.

Both Hendrick and Earnhardt will do just fine, even if Dale is among the odd men out when it comes to Chase qualifying.

But plug Busch into that team and do the math. It's a murderer's row lineup that even Mr. Ruth would have found impressive.