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Never fear, Junior Nation, maybe this new Gen-6 car is just what Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs to revive his somewhat struggling NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. Not to say that Earnhardt had tanked. He did make the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2012, and a concussion that benched him for a couple of races during last years Chase had at least something to do with him dropping to 12th by the end of the year. So maybe Earnhardt was on his way back last season, but the new race car may be just what the doctor ordered for NASCAR’s most popular driver.
Okay, so maybe I’m jumping on some sort of bandwagon that at least a few SPEED Channel and FOX Sports personalities are already on, because they’ve been talking about Earnhardt’s performance with the new car already early on in 2013. I admit, when it comes to some things, I think they’re just blowing smoke of NASCAR’s you-know-what, but I think this stance has merit.
Just look at the stats:
Heading into Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Earnhardt’s second in points to the reigning Sprint Cup champion and former employee Brad Keselowski. Sure, Earnhardt hasn’t been to victory lane, yet, in this still-young 2013 season, but his week-in and week-out top-five performances, so far, have made this the best start to a season in Earnhardt’s Sprint Cup season career — ever. After four races, all of which resulted in top-10 finishes for Earnhardt, NASCAR’s most popular driver has two top-fives and an average race finish of 10th.
Maybe that COT — remember, the car of tomorrow that became the car of today and is now gone and forgotten — just wasn’t Earnhardt’s cup of tea. Kyle Busch proclaimed in Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway’s victory lane after the first COT race that that car sucked. Maybe, for once, looking back, Junior Nation could agree with him, even if he did call them crazy as a collective group during a press conference a few years back.
I’m pretty sure Junior Nation thought that box COT sucked. After all, their driver only won twice in points-paying events in that car, with both of those wins coming at Michigan International Speedway. That’s two wins between 2008 and 2012, and throw in five races with the COT in 2007.
According to some, the feel of this new Gen-6 is reminiscent of the pre-COT car, whatever you want to call it. Yes, you know, the car in which most of Earnhardt’s Cup wins, to this point, came. Earnhardt visited victory lane 17 times in that pre-COT. Could he be on the verge of returning to that level of performance? Maybe. Junior Nation sure hopes so.
Denny Hamlin may have some negative things to say about the Gen-6 car to this point, but Junior Nation probably loves this new car.