With the strong season that Dale Earnhardt Jr. had in 2013, giving his best run in the chase since 2004, he is trending toward success in the 2014 NASCAR season. In the 2013 chase, Junior finished in the top-10 in 80 percent of the races, and top-five in half of them. In fact, in the 2103 season, Earnhardt Jr. was top-10 in 22 of 36 races. This was a personal best for top-10 finishes. He finished top-five in 10 races, nearly 25 percent of his starts. He finished 5th in the championship. Without a doubt, he finished on a high note.
If he can carry his momentum toward success in the 2014 NASCAR season , Dale Earnhardt Jr. might just deliver a few more of those wins that his hordes of faithful followers have been waiting for. Earnhardt Jr.’s fans are not just fair-weather supporters. They are the epitome of NASCAR fans; loyal and loud. Since summer 2012 at Michigan, however, he has not won one race. The 55-race stretch might have been frustrating to watch, but they do keep watching, and waiting. After the promising season he had in 2013, there is reason to believe that the best is yet to come. Earnhardt Jr.’s heart is for his fans, and he gives the genuine impression every time he speaks that he wants the next win as much for his fans as for himself.
Junior’s persona is inextricably bound together with his fans. Try to have a conversation in the stands pre-race, when he is doing his lap in the truck prior to introductions, and you will understand the phenomenon. From outside the track, you know the exact moment he appears by the thunderous roars that fill the air. At every track across the country, the experience is the same. That big crowd in the next section that screams and jumps and opens another beer with every position change and lap lead will be the Junior fans every time. They are inexhaustible, irrepressible, and they will show up every time.
In that, they are a lot like Earnhardt Jr. himself. He knows that, and never once fails to demonstrate the appreciation and respect for his supporters that keeps them coming back every time. In an interview at the Fall 2012 Talladega race hosted by the Speed channel, Earnhardt stood in front of a group of hundreds of race fans in the “Talladega Experience” pavilion, and spoke to the crowd like he was at a backyard barbecue. He talked about going bow-hunting with buddies right along with his discussion of the Michigan win in an almost casual string of conversation. When the interview began, and his first words floated over the loud speakers, the entire Karaoke tent next door, which had been sponsored by Miller Lite, emptied out almost immediately with just the sound of his voice. The crowd swelled to double its size immediately. The look on his face when that happened was part humor, and part profound appreciation. It was one of those moments that can’t be faked. It is why he is NASCAR’s most popular driver.
For the love of those fans, carrying the momentum from a hugely promising 2013 season, Junior is poised and ready to hit the ground running. This coming year ought to see the Dale Earnhardt Jr. breaking free of his win-free trend, and moving toward the NASCAR chase and championship right along with his fans in an emotionally gripping pursuit of long-awaited success.
By Jim Malone