(WOMR file photo)
With two victories in the first fifteen races in 2014, it is the first time that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has had multiple victories in a single season since 2004! In that year Junior scored a career best six (6) wins, and nearly grabbed the Sprint Cup championship!
However, that was ten long years ago and Dale Earhnardt, Jr. was a twenty-something, carefree, lackadaisical, son of a NASCAR legend! He recently admitted that he thought that after winning back to back Nationwide (then called Busch) Series championships that it all came much too easy. He thought that was just the way it was going to be……. easy!
Granted Dale Jr. was raised inside his father’s Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI) racing enterprise. Dale, Sr. surrounded his son with all that was needed, equipment, machinery, and manpower, for Dale Jr. to, not only succeed and win races, but to win championships. By his own admission, Junior readily admits that he became very lazy, complacent, and disrespectful during those DEI years. Additionally, he admits that he took all things for granted!
In the years following the death of his father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., the relationship with his step-mother, obviously soured. Dale Jr.’s days at DEI, the place that Dale, Sr. built for his children to have, were soon to be over.
In 2008 Earnhardt, Jr. made a huge career move. He left the family business at DEI, and took up residence in the Hendrick Motorsports #88 AMP/National Guard Chevy. Dale Jr. said that early on at HMS he felt like a duck out of water. He just kept to himself, rather than try to blend into the organization.
Initially, Junior and his cousin Tony Eury, Jr. came over to HMS as a package, and were paired up as driver and crew chief. That combination failed to prove to be successful. Next came Lance McGrew as his crew chief, that combination, too, was a disaster!
Steve Letarte was the next person to inherit the crew chief position. With the addition of Letarte sitting on the box, he was able to mentor, teach, and command the respect of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. And by doing so, Letarte has brought out the confidence, the swagger, and the enthusiasm in his driver. Those characteristics have manifested itself in a transformation of huge proportions within Dale Jr. and the whole team.
The proof of this is seen in the results that the #88 team has been able to reel off since race number 26 in 2013! To finish out the season during The Chase, the last ten races, Dale Jr. had 5 top five finishes and 7 top ten finishes. Add that to the first 15 races of this season where Dale Jr. has 2 wins, 7 top five finishes, and 10 top ten finishes.
Get your pen and pencil out sports fans and add those numbers up. Those are some outstanding stats, I don’t care who you are!
Now there is solid evidence that this year the following questions may be answered!
Is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the process of re-writing his history? Would this be the year that NASCAR finally gets to bestow the championship on it’s “crown prince”? Is this the year that Dale Jr. fulfills all the potential that everyone knew was within his grasp? Could this be the year that all of JUNIOR NATION gets to finally celebrate what they have been waiting 14 years to celebrate, a Dale Earnhardt, Jr championship?
In other words, could this be the year that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wins it all?
As you may have concluded, I am one of the thousands of NASCAR fans that would be celebrating with JUNIOR NATION if he were to win the Sprint Cup championship this year.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!