There are those drivers that you look at and wonder, ‘Why haven’t they won a race yet?’ Then, you analyze everything and try to figure out where the problem lies. There are some winless streaks in NASCAR that are puzzling, yet one always makes its way into conversation; Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, has failed to make it to Victory Lane since 2008. A negative streak that is 142 races long, many of Junior’s dedicated fans are predicting that it will break very soon. Given, nobody says their driver is going to lose, but I have to agree with them on this one; Dale Jr. will win a race this year.
At the end of last year, he ranked seventh in The 2011 Chase, and he racked up four Top Fives, twelve Top Tens, and twenty-nine Top Twenty finishes. It was his first season with Steve Letarte on his pit box, and the two seem to be a great match. With two Top Tens and a fourteenth place finish under his belt, Junior is shaping up to be a contender every week, which he needs to be when the competition is this fierce. For the first time in a while, there is a noticeable fire in his eyes, one that is burning brighter and hotter than anyone expected. He is hungry for a win that is four years overdue. After the race at Las Vegas, where he got into Mark Martin’s rear bumper, he stated, “Don’t knock a half a second off my lap time by being a jerk about it.” It’s refreshing to see Junior focused and passionate about how he runs this early in the season. If he keeps it up, he will capture a win or two this season.
So where will this dry spell finally get rained on? My bet is Martinsville Speedway. The site of one of two runner-up finishes last year, Dale Jr. can run very well there. The Paperclip is flat, with 12-degree banking in the turns and none when it comes to the straightaways, and it calls for an aggressive driving style. We know he has that in his blood. Number-wise, he has a decent track record; in the past fifteen races at Martinsville, Junior has four Top Fives and four Top Tens, and he qualifies well with a 15.6 average. After being so close this year there, it might be time for Fate to smile down on Junior.
NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver hasn’t won since 2008 at Michigan, and Junior Nation is impatiently waiting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to score a win and break the winless streak. With a renewed desire to compete, he will be in Victory Lane sooner than later.