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« Biggest Events of NASCAR 2012: Finally, a Hendrick car didn’t win the title | Main | Biggest Events of NASCAR 2012: Juan Pablo Montoya Lights Up The Night in Daytona »

Biggest Events of NASCAR 2012: Junior Wins!

By admin | December 5, 2012

When Dale Earnhardt, Jr signed to drive for Hendrick Motorsports prior to the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, many thought it might be the beginning of a very prosperous relationship together. And indeed, the sponsorships, endorsements and merchandise sales have been highly lucrative. Trouble is, however, there hasn’t been much winning to go along with all the money making.

For fans of the popular driver, that last point has been less than pleasing and has often caused the faithful of the so called ‘Junior Nation’ to lay blame at the feet of team owner Rick Hendrick, various crew chiefs and any number of other sources.

But in 2011, things began to turn around for the son of the seven time NASCAR champion when Steve Letarte was sent to the #88 team as a replacement for crew chief Lance McGrew. Although Earnhardt didn’t  win a Sprint Cup race during that campaign, he and his team clearly showed signs of improvement as they contended for several race wins and made the Chase for the Championship playoff.

junior-story.jpg

As 2012 approached, it seemed like a real possibility that Junior’s Chevrolet would wind up parked in some victory lane during the course of the season based on his performance of the previous year.

Earnhardt had last won a Sprint Cup race in June of 2008 at the Michigan International Speedway, which coming into this season had been his first and only triumph for HMS. However, after close calls in Daytona, Fontana, Martinsville and Richmond early this season the fan favorite appeared poised for a breakthrough at any time.

Finally, on the very anniversary of his last win, Junior scored his second victory for HMS and the 19th of his career when he beat the field to the checkered flag again in the Irish Hills of Michigan. His legions of fans not only felt excitement over the achievement, but no doubt, a sense of relief swept through the ranks of Junior Nation when the driver’s followers had confirmation that their hero was indeed still capable of winning races.

As it turns out, that would be the only win for the #88 Chevrolet in 2012 but it did serve to show that wins are still a possibility. And after four years of drought, that had become a question in the minds of some.

But for the excitement and hope that winning brought, there was a definite downside to the 2012 season for Earnhardt. After the October race in Talladega in which he was involved in a last lap crash, Junior began to suffer from headaches. A visit to his doctor revealed concussion-like symptoms which sidelined the driver for two weeks.

In the end, Junior and his crew put together a solid season. One win along with ten top-5s and twenty top-10s is noteworthy, especially when compared against his previous four years. Now that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has shown that he can win a race, will he win more races and actually contend for a championship in 2013 and beyond?

Click here to find out how you could win $25 by correctly predicting the winner of the Daytona 500.

Topics: Articles |

8 Responses to “Biggest Events of NASCAR 2012: Junior Wins!”

  1. Russ Says:
    December 5th, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Does it really matter if Jr. wins races or not? Certainly to his fans it is. But to the sport as a whole it may be better if he is close to winning races.
    As to HMS, as long as he sells tee shirts and brings in sponsors - what else is needed?

  2. The Old Guy Says:
    December 6th, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Even though I’m not a Jr. fan, I was quite glad when he won at Michigan this year. The number of articles about “this may be Juniors week” decreased by about 80% and there was actually something else to read about.

    The fact that Jr. has only two wins in his tenure with HMS tells me that the problem is not with the crew chiefs. Yes, LaTarte has done a wonderful job with his driver. However, even if Jr. had not had the concussion problem, he was, as he has in the past 5 years, fading fast when it came to crunch time.

    Can we talk about something else now?

    How about that Keslowski kid!

  3. dawg Says:
    December 6th, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Let me thing about this for a minute. JR’s winning a race, qualifies as among the biggest events of 2012. While setting off a spate of Championship stories.

    He’s been with Hendrick for 5 years, & finally wins his second race with them.

    Where as this was Kasey’s first season with them. He gets off to a rocky start, but winds up the season with 2 wins.

    Seems like the JR. bar is set pretty low these days.
    Just saying.

  4. Overra88ted Says:
    December 6th, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    With Dale Jr. finally winning a race legally for the first time in 6 years, Na$crap was robbed of it’s biggest PR opprtunity for 2013. Just think of the PR Na$crap would have gotten out of the” Battle For the Pity Pass” entry from the Sprint Open race to the Sprint All-Star race between Dale Jr. and Danica!

  5. Richard Allen Says:
    December 7th, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Whenever Junior wins, it’s a good thing for NASCAR. You always want the driver with the most fans to at least be competitive. He hasn’t even been that in a while.

    “Battle for the Pity Pass” is a good one. I like that.

  6. Offkilter Says:
    December 7th, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    *yawn*

  7. Russ Says:
    December 8th, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Is it my imagination, or, does it seem like nobody talks about the racing anymore. Is all about percieved slights to their particular hero.

  8. Richard Allen Says:
    December 8th, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Unfortunately, personality has overtaken racing. People Magazine would be the most appropriate media outlet to cover NASCAR for some fans.

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