Don't Get Too Excited for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Just Yet


For the first time in over a year, Junior Nation has a reason to smile.

NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver put his #88 Chevrolet on the outside-pole for the season-opening Daytona 500, a race Earnhardt has won before. And his new driver, Indycar diva Danica Patrick, has had a successful first week in the sport, finishing 6th in last Saturday’s ARCA race and earning a spot in this Saturday’s Nationwide race.

But, if you’re a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, don’t get too excited about things just yet.

Your boy has shown that he has speed. After all, you can’t time in 2nd out of 54 cars and not be a little bit quick. But, if Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout was any indication, the 2010 season could be another long one for Junior Nation.

Earnhardt really didn’t look very good, running at the back of the pack most of the night, and finishing 11th only after a big crash took out 7 cars with 2 laps remaining. He performed so poorly that even his buddy Darrell Waltrip couldn’t help but poke fun at him at one point, saying:

“If you get with the right car, you wind up looking really good. But if you get with the wrong car, you wind up looking like Dale Jr.”

If Junior can’t pick things up on Thursday, it may be a long weekend for the #88 team. But even if he performs well this weekend, that’s no sure indication that he will continue that success throughout the season.

Regardless of what happens on Sunday for Earnhardt, good or bad, don’t look too much into it. The first part of the season that will truly tell us how his season will go is the string of races 2-4, all of which take place at cookie-cutter tracks(Auto Club, Las Vegas, Atlanta), which the majority of the schedule is made up of.

So, even though he may be on the front row for the biggest race of the year, don’t get too excited for Dale Earnhardt Jr. just yet.

Tags: Dale Earnhardt Jr

  • Rebecca

    The car Jr. drove at the Shootout was the car he used in last year’s race. If you remember, the car didn’t handle well last year either (and I think he was in an accident), so it’s not a surprise that he didn’t do well with it in this year’s Shootout. I’m assuming the car he’s using in the Daytona 500 is a new chassis. Plus, now the 88 is working more closely with the 5 team, and the outside pole position could reflect the benefits of that teamwork.

  • Larry

    Well dang!!, I thought Jr was going to have a great year solely based on his qualifying run. Thanks for setting me straight. We Jr fans are so lucky to have journalists such as yourself to help keep us grounded. We owe you and others just like you so much, thank you thank you thank you. I now have my head out of clouds and realize that one qualifying run or one totally useless “Bud Shootout” does not make or break your season, and in no way does it show how our hero Dale Jr will perform for the REST of the season. What would Jr nation do without your guidance.

  • http://hotracingnews.com Bob

    Time will tell.
    Last year was very disappointing for JR. The way the shoot out went didn’t look to good. Even in practice today Jr’s car didn’t look to good.
    Win or loose I’m still a JR fan.

  • Marcus

    Larry…hilarious! I wish you could go make that comment on every reporters articles that feel they need to let us know what to read into and not to read into, as if we haven’t been watching our favorite driver in this sport for years.

  • MISSU3

    I can understand why the nation doesn’t like the media pointing things out to them anymore. They like to see everything thru their rose colored Jr. is #1 glasses. You MIGHT see Jr. improve when they give him back the spoiler because he can NOT drive this car.

  • James

    Well at least JR Nation will be stronger this year. All the bandwagon fans are gone… leaving only us Earnhardt fans who have stuck with the family.

  • Katie

    Well I have been a fan since the begining, I be dammed if I change now. I do wish he would shut up and drive the damm car. I also wish he would his team would start acting like a team. What is the old saying “there is no “I” in team”…. I will always be a JR. fan no matter what.

  • http://foxsports kanye east

    James…stuck with the “family”?? whatever…JR cannot, repeat, cannot, drive the COT. It cannot be any clearer than that. Unless they go back to the old car, JR has no shot to make the chase. And it’s not just him; Sadler can’t drive it, Truax can’t drive it, Kahne may be finally figuring it out, Regan can’t drive it. True wheel men have adjusted. The drivers who can’t adjust, become Dale Jr….

  • Mick

    I don’t mind being critical of Jr. he deserves it. I’m a fan but there is a reason the other young drivers have passed him…it’s practice. A lot of those guys drive everything, maybe too much. (could be why Kyle Busch chokes in the chase..he’s wore out) but Dale Jr. might benefit from more racing. That being said to make comments based on the Shootout and the Duel is not fair or impartial. Drivers go into those races with different agendas. Jr. Ran at the front for 1/2 the duel before getting his fender (and tire) tore up. They chose not to hammer on the car in the pits to get it aerodymamically back to where it could run at the front, he probably should have parked it but they didn’t they ran at the back and gained information that might help them on Sunday. Smart move…better then trying to run with guys racing for a chance to race on Sunday who might wreck you. Time will tell, but I was encouraged by the decision making. The race will be won or lost in the pits…so we will see if they have improved or not over last year. Again time will tell…

  • Justin

    There is atleast 1 “MISSU3″ in every group. These are front runner fans, that cheer for the Yankees, the Steelers, etc. They need wins and Championships to justify why they are a fan. They then flaunt those in your face, as proof of why they are justified in cheering, and you are not.

    These people then go on chat boards and blogs, and they try to equate themselves, to Jr fans. Then they take their mindset, of needing wins and Championships, and equate that to Jr Nation. Then they try to speak for Jr Nation.

    Guess what MISSU3, sorry to disappoint you, but I, like many many many, Jr fans, dont actually believe Jr is the best driver. He isnt as talented as Smoke, Gordon, Johnson, or Shrub… We dont expect him to win every race. We dont jump off the band wagon when he loses. We dont expect him to ever win a title. I have higher expectations of winning the lottery, than of Jr winning a title (and I dont even play the lottery). With that being said, you make it sound as if I am dumb, for cheering for Jr. I am not allowed to cheer for Jr…. I dont justify supporting my driver based solely on wins, and titles. Real fans cheer for reasons that cant be found on a stat sheet

  • lenny

    to ben MONTEDONICO THE BUD -SHOOTOUT HAS ALWAYS BEEN DON’T COUNT RACE WITH OLD CARS THEY PIECE TOGETHER THE RACE HAS NO IMPORTANC E BIG DEAL YOU WIN A 6-PACK SHOW SPONSORS NAME GET BACK INTO THE GROVE OF RACING EXHIBITION STYLE WITH A PURSE ITS CALLED ADVERTISEMENT THE DRIVERS AND CREW ARE WARMING UP AFTER ALONG VACATION GETTING BACK TO WHAT THEY DO 55 CARS TRYING TO GET INTO 43 POSITIONS GOING 190MPH WITHIN 1SECOND OF EACHOTHERS TIME, MAN AND MACHINE AT PLAY

  • LENNY

    THE BEST RACING HAS BEEN GONE FOR A LONG TIME 50- 60 70′S YOU GO TO A DEALER BUY A CAR TAKE IT HOME TEAR THE SEATS INTERIOR,MOTOR TRANNY ,REAR-END FRONTEND,SELL FOR PARTS MONEY THEN YOU TAKE WHATS LEFT AND MAKE WITH WITH YOUR HANDS AND SOME FRIENDS ,A LITTLE IMAGINATION A LOTTA TIME AND MONEY AND DISAGREEMENTS AND BUILD A CAR PUT IT ON A TRAILER HAUL IT TO THE TRACK TO SEE WHAT YOU GOT THATS RACING, GOD I LOVE IT RACING!!!!

  • Joe

    Hey Ben
    GO POUND SAND YOU IDIOT !!!
    GO JUNIOR !!!!

  • tantrim

    I bet if you were to put anyone in the 88 he would do as well as Earnhardt did in 2009. No one owes him a championship and if he is for what ever reason doesn’t ever win another race so what. I wasn’t a fan of his dad so it wouldn’t bother me if he never races again.