OK, I've defended Dale Earnhardt Jr. here. I like him. I hope he wins, but he's not going to win unless he puts his mind back in the game. Regardless of the wreck that everyone is still talking about, Dale Jr. made at least two mistakes that put him first of all at the back of the field, and later a lap down. Supposedly Dale Jr. had a cold or a sinus problem, but those kind of mistakes that he made in the Daytona 500 will ruin a championship run.
You absolutely cannot miss your pit stall. You just can't. It's easy to do with 43 pit stalls on pit road, but having a pink sign and not having the foresight to change it to an easily distinguishable sign before the race is no excuse. I'm not saying that's Jr.'s fault. Tony Eury Jr. or someone on the crew should have seen that coming, if indeed all the pit signs were so alike. All I'm saying is that missing your pit is an automatic tail end of the lead lap. Experienced drivers should never, ever let that happen.
In NASCAR, every single point counts. Finishing 27th in the Daytona 500 is not a good way to begin a season. I don't know where Dale Jr.'s mind was on Sunday, but it wasn't really in the race car. He's got the best equipment, the best owner, and some of the best sponsors in the sport, but he's going to have to pick it up if he's going to keep Rick, Amp, and the National Guard happy. Sure they got a lot of TV time, but not in the way they wanted it.
It's attention to details that can make or break a winner in NASCAR. One inch on the line of the pit stall, and having an official pointing and being ignored is a huge mistake. The crew could have taken a little time and put Dale Jr. in the pit stall and not lost a lap. They would have lost time, but not a lap. Had they done that.
Here's hoping that Dale Jr. gets his head out of where ever it was and into the game.