In May of 2011, Dale Earnhardt Jr. experienced a major ‘blow’ to his season, as he would fall just short of winning the Coca-Cola 600. Why is this important? Simple. This would have ended Junior’s winless streak.
One can not look back to May, as it fell ‘early’ in the season, but instead learn from May and interpret it as a stepping point as we return to the place where he can experience redemption.
“Naw, it doesn’t upset me I just hope that we will have a competitive car to try to get the win. We ran pretty good in that race, we could have been better, you know we will just have to see how the practice goes, but it makes you want to come back and try again,” said Junior.
Junior on his car for Saturday night, “I think we will be better this time around, versus the last time we raced here.”
If Junior feels this way, there has to be some sign of encouragement as we approach Saturday night racing under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Junior qualified 15th on the speed charts Thursday night, turning a fast lap time of 28.297 seconds. Junior was also the third car to finish with a speed in the 190mph range (top-12 drivers in qualifying turned laps of 191mph).
Let’s just say Junior does win Saturday night, where does that put him in this year’s Chase? Honestly, it puts him in a great spot to contend for his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Currently, Junior is ninth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship points, as he is only 43 points out of first place.
I can’t say that his chances are ‘great’, but what I can say is that there is still that chance. Having said that, if Junior were to win at Charlotte Saturday night, he would be in a great position as we head to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.
Shockingly Junior agrees, “We are quite a ways behind, and you sort of got to adjust your goals and when we got as far behind as we are, I think winning a race becomes a top priority. If you win races, the points take care of themselves.”
With that being said, if for some reason Junior does not get a ‘W’ in the win column, would he consider his 2011 NSCS season a successful one?
“Well it’s an improvement we want to win races, and it is going to be a disappointment if we do not win a race. We are happy with the gains that we have made, and I think that the team and Steve (Letarte, Crew Chief) expect more and I do too,” said Junior.
Junior later went on to say, “We are happy that we gained but we are not winning enough races and running as well as we would like to. That is what we will work on.”
Personally, I would be willing to bet his fans agree 100% with Junior’s stance, which keeps them coming back week in and week out.
If you are a Junior fan, remain optimistic. After all, Junior did make the Chase this year and was in contention for several wins over the course of the season.