17 June 2012

Why Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is now the Chase favorite after winning at Michigan

It had been four years and 143 races since Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had found victory lane in somewhat controversial fashion by breaking some rules in order to save fuel at Michigan until he won today, rocking a badass The Dark Knight Rises paint scheme to take the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan. Earnhardt led the most laps on the day, 95, and pulled away late in the race from Tony Stewart to take the victory and move within four points of the points leader, Matt Kenseth.

Earnhardt has been in the top five of the points all season long and looks to be a top contender for the title. In fact, I consider him to be the favorite as of right now and here is why.

A long winless streak is kinda like having writer's block. It is so damn hard for one to break and it can often give the driver, or the writer, thoughts that he cannot break the streak. But once he finally does, if he ever does, that sudden rush of confidence of knowing that you got your groove back, like Stella, you can find a whole lot of success thereafter.

And that's what I'm expecting Dale Jr. to do the rest of this season, now that he has gotten the confidence back after finally winning a race. This wasn't a victory on fuel mileage, like his prior one was, this was him taking advantage of a great car to beat the field. Junior has been close to getting victories before this season as he has finished second twice and had great cars at Vegas and at Pocono only to have some bad luck get in the way.

Earnhardt is also showing the consistency that a championship driver needs. He has finished every lap through 15 races with zero DNF's, his worst finish is 17th, he already has the most top fives in a season since his Hendrick Motorsports debut in 2008 and tied for the most top tens since, and he has already quadrupled the amount of laps led from last season. He is taking full advantage of the great Hendrick equipment and has worked really well with crew chief Steve Letarte.

I don't get the reasoning behind those who say that Junior does not have the talent to win the title. He has finished in the top five in points three times and came pretty close to winning the title in 2006 when he won a series high six races and was going to be the point leader after winning the fall race in Talladega but a 25 point penalty for obscenity gave Kurt Busch the points lead after that race and Junior got hurt by a pair of crashes late in that season. The talent is clearly there, he has been running great and now has momentum and the confidence to go out and win that title. Hence why I consider him the favorite right now.

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