Dale Earnhardt Jr. collected his second win of the season Monday morning at Daytona. Jr., who is showing to be a title contender this season, has ran up front all year and continues to give consistent results. Through 17 races Jr. has 2-wins, 9-top 5's, and 11 top-10's. His average finish is 10.0, which if maintained would be the highest of his career. Jr. winning does prove that 'June Bug' has gotten over his slump that lasted from 2007-2010, and honestly this year could be make or break for Jr's chances to win a championship.
The new Chase format is simple, win and you're in. Jr. needs to win more for my liking, but he is getting the job done. Jr. actually has a lot going for him in terms of how the Chase could pan out for him. First, he has Talladega and Martinsville to look forward to. He is a shoe in to win 'Dega, and Martinsville has grown on him the last few years. Second, his performance on 1.5 mile tracks this years is phenomenal. With a 3rd at Atlanta, 4th at Vegas, 3rd at Texas, 3rd at Charlotte, and 3rd at Kansas, his average finish is 3.2.
Jr. is setting up a solid run in the post season, though I do think he needs to work on some things, such as winning more often. To be honest, I have never been a fan of Jr., and have cheered against him more than for him, but I have to set my bias aside and commend him on his performance this season. Now, I don't expect him to win a title, but with how he has performed the first half of the year, you have to believe there is a chance.
Breaking down the Chase there are 5 mile and a half tracks (HALF), 2 one mile tracks, a short track, a superspeedway, and whatever the hell Phoenix is. Jr. has confidence in 7 of these tracks without question. If he can maintain his top-5 streak on intermediate tracks come Chase time, he will be a determining factor in who takes home the championship. As stated before if he can take home Martinsville or Talladega his chances increase even more. I think the only thing holding him back is his 'clutch' factor. Jr., has never really been the guy to win when his back is against the wall. That is something that he will have to prove, at least to me.
Overall, I think Jr. has one of the best chances in his career to walk away a champion. I won't pick him to go out on top, but his performance needs to be noticed. I myself didn't realize how good he has ran until I looked it up. Honestly, I was going to write a blog about how Jr. needs to do more to win, but then I realized he is doing what he needs to do already, run consistent and compete for wins. In my eyes I still believe Earnhardt isn't ready to be a champion, but 2015 sure looks to give him a good chance. All I know is that his opportunities are dwindling down. Though he is more consistent that ever before, the #88 team needs to show that they can step up from just a race winner to title contender.
P.S. It also doesn't hurt that Dale seems to be the happiest he has ever been. With being engaged, and life settling down, the Pide Piper may mentally be in the best place of his career.
Well, there you go! I tried my best to throw out any bias. I have never really supported Jr., but that opinion is for another day. This year he is doing his job. Let me know what you think! Do you think Jr. will ever be a champion?