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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dale Jr. Reaches New Level Of Consistency

All the speculators thought this weekend was the week.  Hendrick was to get their 200th win and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was to break his losing streak and make all of Junior Nation happy once again.  Sometimes things just don't work out the way you plan.  However, Dale Jr. can be thrilled with his 9th place finish for another reason!

Dale Earnhardt Jr's top 10 finish at Talladega marked his 8th in the first 10 races of this season which is the first time he has ever surpassed 7 top 10's to begin a season.  Junior has reached 7/10 three other times (2003, 2004, and 2008). 

An 80% top ten mark to start the NASCAR season has been reached 47 times in the Cup Era (since 1975), and has been accomplished by that year's champion 13 times out of 36 years.  However, that has not been accomplished since NASCAR went to the Chase format.  In fact, the last time it happened was one year prior when Matt Kenseth won the championship with only 1 win.

Dale Earnhardt started the season with 8 top tens in 7 of his seasons, including 6 championship years.  The next driver on the list was Darrell Waltrip, who made that mark 6 times, including twice of those being 9 top 10's out of 10 races.  Out of the other NASCAR greats, Terry Labonte did it 5 times, Jeff Gordon 3, Bobby Allison 3, Cale Yarborough 2, and Richard Petty 2 times.

Some notable drivers not on that list were Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and other current top drivers.  The best knowledge to take away from that fact is that these racers have been excellent in the past 8 years at turning it on from the summer on, especially during the Chase.  This has been an issue for Junior in the past as even though he has won at some Chase races, such as Talladega and Phoenix, he has not been able to put together 10 great races at the end of the season as he has now at the beginning.

In the mean time, Earnhardt Jr. and the 88 team as a whole are enjoying a building of momentum including 6 straight top ten finishes.  They are listed as the best team over the past 6 races, Junior has one of the highest average driver ratings he has had in his career, and people are looking for them to win week in and week out.  The most important thing driver 88 can do now is prove those people right...
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