7:43 PM EDT, June 18, 2012
Living up to his name
This isn't a question of Junior getting better. He is already there.
It's now a question of whether he can continue to fulfill his potential as the most consistent driver on the Cup circuit.
Earnhardt is smokin' this season, with six top fives and 12 top 10s. It was only a matter of time before he won a race. He is dialed in with crew chief Steve Letarte. Multiple victories are easily within the realm of possibility.
"Dale is just — he's just switched on," said owner Rick Hendrick. "He's got the confidence. ... Every week they're the best by far. He's sitting in the catbird seat to win his first championship."
Hendrick is right. Junior is finally living up to the expectations that come with his last name.
Could be starting a roll
If this were the NBA, the conspiracy theorists would have a field day. Dale Jr.'s drought-ender, on Father's Day no less, was just what NASCAR and its TV partners needed. Ratings were down before the Michigan race and contract negotiations are right around the corner.
But this was no pre-designed fix to give the brand a shot in the arm. Junior has been fast and consistent all season, and he dominated Michigan. He may have had the best car at Pocono a week earlier but played it cautiously to protect his points.
With him now in sync with crew chief Steve Letarte and the Hendrick team clicking — six wins in the last seven events — Junior could be starting a roll.
It's no aberration
The drought spanned 143 races over 48 months, but it's not like Dale Earnhardt Jr. was off hibernating.
The truth is, his victory at Michigan International Speedway didn't come out of the blue. Dale Jr. was having a successful year before the win, with 11 finishes in the top 10 and the No. 2 spot in the point standings. He was in the hunt at Pocono a week earlier and he has been inching closer to the winner's circle.
So he was bound to finish first at some point and no one should be surprised if it happens again.
And now that his passionate fan base can exhale, the next victory will seem a lot more ordinary. Finally, it will be just another win and we won't be wondering if it's an aberration.
Just a matter of time
Los Angeles Times
Winning again this season won't be easy — no Sprint Cup Series driver has won more than twice through 15 races — but Earnhardt is as poised as anyone to visit Victory Lane a second time in 2012.
Earnhardt has 12 top-10 finishes so far this season, more than any other driver, and everyone agreed it was a simply matter of time until he finally won again.
Earnhardt now has some momentum and, for the first time in years, the popular driver and his Hendrick Motorsports crew can race without the burden of the winless streak hanging over their heads.
And perhaps Earnhardt's best chance for a second win comes in three weeks when the series returns to one of his best tracks: Daytona International Speedway.
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