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Can Dale Earnhardt Jr Get Over the Top in 2014 with Hendrick Motorsports?

December 23rd, 2013 at 12:39 PM
By Mark Eddinger

NASCAR's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr is coming off his most competitive season since he left Dale Earnhardt Incorporated for Hendrick Motorsports prior to the 2008 season. Now heading into 2014 the big question is can Earnhardt Jr win multiple races and contend to the finale for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship?

'Dale Earnhardt Jr' photo (c) 2013, Marco Becerra - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The last two seasons for Junior behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet have proven to be drastically better than his first four seasons with the team and momentum is building but it is now time to put a stamp on all of it and perform to the highest level.

Earnhardt Jr raced in 291 career races for DEI between 1999 and 2007 and won 17 times. His best points finish of his career came in 2003 when he finished third. The 2004 season saw him score career highs with six wins and 16 top 10 finishes on way to a fifth place points finish. Following a disappointing 2007 season where Earnhardt Jr went winless for the first time with DEI and finished 16th in points he made the move to Hendrick Motorsports.

Things never clicked for Dale there. He won in his first season and had 16 top 10's but finished 12th in points. Then 2009 and 2010 were disastrous seasons where he scored only 13 top 10 finishes in 72 starts and was winless. He finished a miserable 25th and 21st in points those two years. He also went winless in 2011 but had 12 top 10's and finished seventh in points. The turnaround had slowly begun.

In 2012 he returned to victory lane for only the second time with Hendrick Motorsports. He looked like he could be a Chase contender but was sidelined near the end of the season for two races due to concussion symptoms. That relegated him to 12th in points but he did score 20 top 10 finishes in his 34 races and had his best average finish of his career for a season by posting an average of 10.9.

The momentum carried to 2013 where Earnhardt Jr set a career high with 22 top 10 finishes. He fell short in the Chase due to an engine issue that produced a 35th place finish in the very first race at Chicagoland. From there though Earnhardt had eight top 10 finishes in the remaining nine races a stretch that moved him to a fifth place points finish. It was a very competitive season for Earnhardt Jr who competed at the front of the field often. Even with all the great runs he and the No. 88 team could not finish off any of the races with a victory.

That will be the goal in 2014. Win multiple races. It is something the team looks capable of. Now they have to go out and produce. If it comes together Dale Earnhardt Jr could battle it out next fall for his first career Sprint Cup Series championship. It sure would be popular.

Tags: Dale Earnhardt Jr, DEI, Hendrick Motorsports, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

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