CHARLOTTE, NC—NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., hasn’t won a race since Michigan in June, 2008. That streak not only includes races in which points are awarded, but also in exhibition races like Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star race.
A past winner of the event, Earhardt Jr. remembers how big that event was to him and his team back in 2000 when they pulled of the victory in their rookie year, and how he and his team felt when they knew they were in the “big show”.
“We were just excited to be in that race,” said Earnhardt. “I remember when we won Texas, that’s when we talked about in victory lane probably more than anything that we were in the All-Star event.
“We hadn’t even considered ourselves that fortunate as a team, and we were sort of rising up through the ranks so quickly. So, when we got to the All-Star itself, we were really just enjoying the whole experience.”
That race featured Earnhardt Jr. driving up from the fourth position with six laps to go, to passing Dale Jarrett for the lead with only two laps to go. In the process, the young Earnhardt also passed his late father as well as Jerry Nadeau in order to catch Jarrett with three laps left.
As was customary during the early NASCAR days of Earnhardt Jr. he was greeted by his late father in victory lane after he finished third behind his son and Jarrett, with a hug and the elder Earnhardt telling the reporters how proud of his son he was.
“I know Tony [Eury] Sr. and Tony [Eury] Jr. were thinking about winning the race as soon as the gates opened but I really didn’t imagine that being a reality until that last segment,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I think we started off a couple laps and that car wasn’t going to get it done and we made a choice to come and get tires and it took off. It was a wild evening and just storybook for me. One of the greatest memories for me.”
But lately, wins have been non existent for Eanhardt Jr. in any of NASCAR’s series’ since June,2008 at Michigan International Speedway.
So far in 2012, Earnhardt Jr. has been statistically the most consistent driver through the first 11 races. But still, that elusive victory still isn’t in his grasp.
And coming into the All-Star, Earnhardt Jr. thinks that even though this race doesn’t pay out points it could still benefit him and his team down the road.
” I do think it would get people excited and it definitely would get our team excited,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I’m sure it would have a good affect on us and build our confidence especially for next weekend.
“I remember when we won here in 2000, how much confidence it gave me going into the (Coca-Cola) 600, and we actually ran really well in that race.
“Winning this kind of event would do wonders for our team.”