Countdown to the season: #8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Countdown to the season: #8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (February 17, 2013)

Sure Dale Earnhardt Junior is NASCAR's most popular driver. But can he win a championship? That has been the biggest question swrilling around Junior for most of his career.

At times in 2012 it looked like the answer was yes. But once the chase started, you really have to give Earnhardt an incomplete, mainly because he had to sit out two races with a concussion. That decision was huge for the sport, smart for Junior and important because he needed to be the first, to give the decision some teeth and bring attention to the issue of concussions.

So 2013 will be big for Earnhardt. He has now been at Hendrick Motorsports for some time now, he had been with crew chief Steve Latarte for a while, too. Last year he got back in the chase for back to back seasons. Now it's time for him to take the next step.

"Anything that can make my team have a better shot to win the races is what is important to me," said Earnhardt. "If it can help (Jimmie Johnson's crew chief) Chad (Knaus) or it can help Jeff (Gordon) and those guys that's the most important part about it."