So much has changed for Dale Earnhardt Jr. since last year. He's got a new team owner, he's got new cars, he's got new crew members, new sponsors, and a new number. And he's running consistently good races.
Dale Jr. still does not have a points win in 2008, but the Earnhardt Nation expects one at pretty much any time. Jr. has been a factor to win in most of the races in 2008. Dale's day is coming, and what a celebration it will be when that day finally gets here.
In spite of recent famous setbacks on the track, Dale Jr. has remained positive. He seems happy with running in the top 5 and top 10 every week, although he would very much like to be in Victory Lane, and soon. His performance so far has kept him in 3rd place in Championship points. As our young friend Lauren Wallace likes to say, Dale Jr. is a hundred miles away, and ready to strike, son.
I believe that the overriding virtue of Ralph Dale Earnhardt Jr. is his personality. He's very easygoing, and though he does possess a temper, he remains cool under pressure, and that's a trait that is currently not exhibited by the arguably hottest driver in the sport right now. Dale Jr. doesn't have the wins, but he does have the class, and the ability to think calmly under pressure. Just because Dale Jr. has not won a points race doesn't mean he's not running well. Other drivers have won races this year, but are mired behind Dale Jr. in points because they've made crucial mistakes on the track or in the garage. For a brand new team, with a brand new driver, and a brand new crew chief, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the class of the Hendrick stable so far this year. His teammate Jimmie Johnson has won a race, but bad setups have prevented Jimmie from his usual dominating style this year. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been consistent, and that counts in the race for the Chase.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. carries more pressure on his back than any other driver, in my humble opinion. Dale Jr. is the most popular driver in the sport, and carries a very demanding schedule of appearances between the races. The man literally is always moving, even when he's not on the track, it would seem. Dale appears to have his famous father's business skills, and carries the weight of not only his driving duties, but his own racing team, JR Motorsports on his shoulders. He owns a wildly successful bar in downtown Charlotte, and he hosts his own radio show on a weekly basis.
Spread too thin, you might ask? Not at all. Although Dale Jr. is busy, he's put good people in key positions in his life, and in his business interests. Most importantly, he's put people he can trust to make decisions for him. Dale oversees the variety of operations, but he counts on his trusted associates to run them for him. That's being smart, if you are running a business. Put good people in the right positions, and get out of their way. Dale Jr. understands that business acumen.
As fans, we have probably reacted as one would expect when an impudent punk or even two manage to change the outcome of a race. Some us of have looked at things philosophically, and tried to move on. Others of us have just been angry and have stayed that way. Certain names will not be mentioned on this forum, at least not today. They've already received too much press, in my opinion. They're not getting anymore from me, at least not today.
My driver is Dale Earnhardt Jr. I like him because he's got really good skills on the track, and he's a most likable person off the track. Dale Jr. represents the grown up "young" driver in the sport now. He's a successful race car driver and a successful business man. He has legions of fans that follow his every word, and his every move. At 33 years old, Dale Jr. has accomplished more than most people will ever accomplish in a lifetime. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a role model to many, and a hero to millions.
If Dale Jr. never wins another race, I would still be a fan of his. He's overcome a lot in his life, and yet he can still smile and laugh about things, good or bad that have happened to him. But I know Dale Jr. will win, and win a lot before his days behind the steering wheel of a Cup car are behind him. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has the drive and determination to get the job done, and his fans will be behind him, 188 per cent.
Dale Jr., it's good to see you smiling. Racing for Rick Hendrick must be an awesome experience, and Brad Keselowski and your other drivers must be making you proud. Dale Jr., you make us all proud to be your fans. But one thing I hope you know, is that your dad is looking down you, and he's seeing what you've accomplished in your life so far.
Daddy's proud, Dale Jr. You can bet on that.