It’s mid August and that means Michigan this year. I have been proposing Dale Jr just needed to do well the last couple of races – that is over. I do firmly believe Junior will make the Chase and only needs decent finishes to accomplish that feat but it’s now about winning a Cup.
There is absolutely no reason, beyond pleasing NASCAR’s largest fan base, for Junior to make the Chase and not be competitive. The hunt for his first championship starts Sunday. Junior must and will, have a great race to start to build momentum for the Chase. He and the 88 can not limp in to the Chase with top twenties and expect to compete with the other Chasers.
Junior’s last win came at Michigan with fuel mileage strategy but this time it will be with a fast car and a great driver. Michigan is the style track, intermediate, which is critical to winning. It is the type Jimmie Johnson has dominated to win his five titles. If Junior can show power this weekend it will place him smack in the middle of Cup contention.
If he doesn’t? It will be mean there is a lot of work to do and a short time to do it before Chicagoland and the start of the Chase. It will also mean, Atlanta on September fourth is critical, the last of the intermediates on the regular season schedule.
All that being said, the 88 is poised for a good finish Sunday and I believe when they look back at this season people will say, “Junior made a statement in Michigan that lead to his Cup.”
My prediction; A new chassis, good communication between LeTarte and Junior equals a win for the 88. Remember you heard it here first!
Racing Reference Stats
Dale Earnhardt Jr at Michigan
24 starts, 4648 of 4691 laps completed (99.1%), 173 laps led
Win: 1 ( 4.2%) Average start: 14.9 Total Winnings: $2,339,562
Top 5: 4 ( 16.7%) Average finish: 15.9
Top 10: 8 ( 33.3%) DNF: 2