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Will 2011 Be Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Year?

Posted by chadmusselman on January 16, 2011

Dale has been bad, real bad, lately.  He missed making the chase in three of the last four seasons, finishing in 21st (2010), 25th (2009), 12th (2008, in the Chase), and 14th (2007).  He also hasn’t won a race since the 2008 season, and that win was two years after the one before it.  That’s right, in the past 4 full seasons Dale has only managed one win.  In the last 6 full seasons he only has three wins. 

As you probably already know, Rick Hendrick has instituted some changes in an effort to get Dale Earnhardt Jr. back in the winner’s circle and into the Chase.  Hendrick is basically putting Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Jeff Gordon’s car with Jeff Gordon’s crew chief and team.  Now Earnhardt’s crew chief will go over to Mark Martin, and Mark Martin’s crew chief will move over to Jeff Gordon.  Seems like a lot of change to solid teams just to hope you can make a bad driver a little better.

Another change to take place is to have Earnhardt share a shop with Johnson.  Jeff Gordon and Jimmie  Johnson were sharing one shop and Mark Martin and Earnhardt the second shop.  Now Gordon will be paired with Martin at the second shop.  I guess Rick Hendrick thinks that Earnhardt will learn from osmosis or something by bumping elbows with Jimmie Johnson, who knows.  It sure can’t hurt to be able to pick Jimmie’s brain, and maybe since they’re closer in age they’ll be able to communicate better than Martin and Earnhardt did.  I don’t see that happening though.  Jimmie will be focused on winning his 6th in a row and Earnhardt may hinder that.

A change is needed, but maybe the change shouldn’t be Rick Hendrick moving drivers around to try to help a bad driver.  Maybe the change should be letting Dale Earnhardt Jr’s contract run out after this year, and not sign the extension that they’re talking about.  I’ve said it before.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a good guy, and I like him, but he’s not a good driver.  He’s passed his peak.  Now he has to bank on being popular with the fans and hope he can win another race or two before his career ends up like Kyle Petty’s.  So, will 2011 be Dale Earnhardt Jr’s year?  No, not even close.  Let’s just hope that these changes don’t totally mess up the chemistry that Hendrick Motorsports had.

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