(WOMR file photo)
It has only been four years, a mere 143 races, since Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove his Hendrick Motorsports #88 Diet Mtn Dew Chevy into Victory Lane. In fact, it was exactly four years and one day since his last victory! Coincidently, the win for Junior came at the Michigan International Speedway in 2008. Nevertheless, today Dale Jr.not only won the race, but he clearly dominated the field in the Qicken Loans 400, leading a race high 95 laps enroute to his 19th career Sprint cup victory.
“Pretty amazing,” Earnhardt Jr. ”Those last 15 laps were the longest 15 laps ever.”
Earnhardt’s victory came by over five seconds over second-place Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing. It gave Earnhardt, who is second in points, his 12th top-10 finish. And it moved him to with four-points of the series lead.
“Man, this is incredible,” Earnhardt said. “I just didn’t know when it would happen. I knew it was going to happen, just didn’t know when. We were getting pretty impatient. I gotta give Steve Letarte (crew chief)and my team; the team he puts around us, all the credit. They’ve been building some great cars this year. We’ve been really strong every week and we have just been getting better and better. Last year we couldn’t really get better. We just stayed the same all year. This year we’ve been faster and faster.
“Hopefully we can win some more races. I just real proud of Diet Mountain Dew, National Guard, Sprint, Chevrolet, all of our partners. All the fans for sticking behind us through all these years trying to get back to victory lane. I’d say this win right here is more for them than anybody because they’ve supported us through everything. So, we really appreciate that.”
The victory marked another high in a season of highs for the Hendrick organization. Team-owner Rick Hendrick got his 200th career victory earlier in the season. Kasey Kahne got his first victory for the team earlier in the year.
And now, Earnhardt has come through!
Asked what kind of celebration was in store, Hendrick said, “Well, we had Brad Paisley come down and play for our 200th win. No telling what we might do for this one, I don’t know, but we’re going to do something. We do like to celebrate together, because the organization just works so hard, and they want to see Junior do so well. So stay tuned.”
Does Dale Jr have something for ’em?
For those of you who have not checked out just who is lurking in second place in the Sprint Cup standings, look now further than the winner of the Quicken Loans 400! Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is hanging very steady in second place in the standings, just four (4) points behind Matt Kenseth.
With the series moving out to the left coast for the first road race of the year, Sonoma Raceway, the lead could very easily passed to Dale Jr. when the checkered flag falls in the heart of the wine country! Even though this is the first win for Dale Jr. in four years and one day, 2012 has found the #88 Diet Mtn Dew Chevy very consistently finishing in the top five almost weekly. That consistency has been the catalyst for motivating this team towards the possibility of winning their very first Sprint Cup championship!
So as of Sunday evening, all is well in JUNIOR NATION!