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Junior can’t really be considered a restrictor plate track favorite anymore

By admin | October 20, 2013

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was usually a threat to win on the plate tracks when he drove this car. 

By Richard Allen

At one time, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was, without question, THE favorite every time the Sprint Cup Series found itself on the restrictor plate tracks in Talladega and Daytona. For a short time, he was indeed the master of those domains.

Junior collected five wins over a span of only seven races at Talladega between 2001 and 2004. During that same time period, he added two more victories at Daytona, including an emotional July of 2001 win in the first race back at the track since his father’s death. He also scored the biggest win of his career there in 2004 when he captured the Daytona 500.

A look at Earnhardt’s statistics on the two giant facilities since 2004, however, reveals that his results are hardly better than average.

Daytona has been the better of the two tracks for him in that he has posted several top-5 finishes there. But in so doing, he has led relatively few laps. In Junior’s last ten starts at Daytona, he has been at the front for only 15 total circuits, with the grand total being zero in the four most recent events there.

Since 2004, Junior has actually been well below average at Talladega. He has posted only five top-10s in his last 17 starts on the Alabama track. Further, seven races have resulted in finishes outside the top-20 on the old Native-American burial ground.

Back in the day, Junior was a threat to not only win but dominate on these two tracks. That day has apparently passed by. However, because he is so popular, a number of talking heads on television will likely say that he is “the favorite” to win Sunday’s race in Talladega because it’s what so many fans want to hear. But the numbers since 2004 simply don’t back that up.

Earnhardt has a chance to win in Talladega, but so do 42 other drivers if they can avoid ‘The Big One’ that is almost certain to happen.

Topics: Articles |

7 Responses to “Junior can’t really be considered a restrictor plate track favorite anymore”

  1. Sue Rarick Says:
    October 20th, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Junior has never gotten the handle on the COT and COT lite(gen6).

  2. Bill B Says:
    October 20th, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I don’t think this is news to anyone. Like you said, the talking heads on tv will bring it up because they need something good to say about Jr.. It perks up a lot of Jr fans’ ears just to hear his name.

  3. Offkilter Says:
    October 20th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Running out of ideas to write about, bro?

  4. NASCARJeff Says:
    October 21st, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Because Jr isn’t a favorite to win anywhere

  5. Michael in SoCal Says:
    October 21st, 2013 at 10:29 am

    While he hasn’t won a RP race in a while, this is his third (I think) 2nd place in the last couple of years. And yes, I know, 2nd place is just the first loser.

  6. Sue Says:
    October 21st, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    What a wasted article. Might want to rethink this as he looked great yesterday. Led second most laps, up front all day, finished 2nd and most likely would have won if not for the caution on last lap. Also don’t have to lead a lot of laps at restrictor-plate races…just the last one. As for Daytona, where as you say “he has posted several top-5 finishes there”…how about he has finished 2nd in 3 of the last 4 Daytona 500’s! He is still a great restrictor-plate racer but doesn’t get a lot of help from teammates or competitors. His car was so fast he didn’t need much help and looked as great as ever. I know these articles are written to rile up Jr. Nation but you end up looking uninformed.

  7. RacingFan Says:
    October 21st, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    In hindsight, Junior was pretty strong yesterday. I don’t think it is due to a difference in Junior’s driving but in the car. The super tracks have a long history of periods where a team would dominate and the other teams would run for second. Such was the case when Junior dominated in the past. Others that had their days of domination (that came and went) at the super tracks include Dale Sr, Sterling Marlin, Petty, Bill Elliott, and the Yates cars. (There were more.) It was more car than driver, even though the drivers listed were strong drivers.