Standing second in points after six starts, with three top fives and four top ten finishes, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
is having a pretty good year in Nascar’s Sprint Cup competition. The only question on everyone’s mind is when is he going to win again? With Nascar moving to Texas Motor Speedway for its next stop, is this the place where he “Can Git Er Done?”
Nascar’s most popular driver will be going into Texas where he hasn’t won since April 2000. This track is a 1.5 mile D-oval with 24 degree banking in the corners and has been dominated by the Fords in the past. Denny Hamlin won a couple of times in a Toyota and Kurt Busch in a Dodge and Tony Stewart won here in November on his way to a Sprint Cup Championship in a Chevy, but from the beginning I have thought it to be a Ford track. Because of the length and banking, it is considered a “down force” track.
During his win less streak, Dale Jr. seems to have trouble keeping up with a race track like this one. He either doesn’t understand what changes the car needs during a race, or he isn’t communicating the right information to his crew chief. He has one of the best Crew Chiefs at Hendricks in Steve Letarte who won a Sprint Cup Championship with Jeff Gordon in 2001. He seems to qualify well, and most of the time when he gets the lead, it’s early in the race. As rubber gets built up on the track and changes are needed, he tends to drift back and not have his best stuff late in the race when they’re coming to the checkers.
Jr. was gifted a third place finish at Martinsville when Clint Bowyer decided he could run three wide. Bowyer snow plowed race leaders Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon out of the way along with himself to let Ryan Newman win the race and Jr. moved up to third. Without that help, the top five would have been a top 10.
Dale Jr.’s last big season was 2004 when he posted six wins, 16 top five finishes, and 21 top 10 finishes. He finished the season 5th in the points standings. In July of that year, he had a situation where he had an accident in a LeMans Series Corvette during an off weekend at Nascar. He slid off the track and hit a concrete barrier and broke a fuel line. His car caught fire and Dale Jr. suffered second and third degree burns on his neck, chin and legs before he could get out of the car. At the end of the 2004 season he lost his crew chief Tony Eury Sr. who was promoted to Team Manager at DEI Motorsport. He was replaced by Peter Rondeau for the 2005 season.
It seems that after a procession of new crew chiefs and a battle with DEI Motorsports as well as New Beginnings at Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Jr. still can’t find the Magic of that 2004 season. He has only posted 3 wins and and has only made the Race For The Chase two times finishing a dismal 25th in 2009.
As we watch the careers of two struggling Super Stars, Tiger Woods in Golf and Dale Jr. in Nascar, Tiger seems to have turned the corner two weeks ago with a win at Bay Hill. I think it is also Dale Jr.s year to get off the snide and get a win in Sprint Cup Competition. I just don’t think it will be next weekend at Texas. But when he does, I will be cheering right along with the rest of his fans.