Believe it or not New Hampshire made me happy. Dale Jr may have only finished 17th but it was still encouraging. His car was far better than where it finished. Junior even said he thought he had a chance of winning. Remember Junior is a driver who is brutally honest in post race, about his car, so when he says he thought it may have been a winning car, you should believe him.
Two flat tires are not good but what was good was the show of horse power and handling the 88 demonstrated. I even took comfort from the fact Junior didn’t curse the tires. He knew, on a relatively flat track, camber was the culprit but it was also needed to make the car turn. Just facts, not excuses was how I took it.
Dale Jr now sits eighth in the standings a drop of three places. Even that is not as bad as it sounds. Only five drivers have more points than Junior. Two more have the same amount – Kyle Busch and Kenseth. Dale is listed as eighth because Kenseth and Ky Bush hold tie breakers over him. So in all actuality the 88 is tied for sixth – 26 points behind Tony Stewart.
If Stewart keeps winning the points aren’t going to matter any way but that’s unlikely. What does matter more at this juncture, with eight races to go, is the drivers ahead of Junior. The less drivers he has to catch, obviously the better. Mathematically a driver within 375 points can still win. Not probable but possible. But if JR stays in the standing eighth to eleventh (sorry Denny) it’s going to be hard to out point that many drivers. But sitting in sixth he has a chance in the next few weeks to climb a few spots. Maybe get into fourth by Talladega. Passing Edwards and Keselowski shouldn’t be too bad. ESPN’s favorite racer, Cousin Carl’s time to choke is about here. Then there is BK, whose crew chief makes idiot calls and gets lucky. I think luck is about to swing away from the Two, like it has a habit of doing to everyone who relies on it.
That leaves Smoke, Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Dale in the top four and the House the Earnhardts Built next. With the new restrictor plate rule, increasing horse power, look for Dale Jr to capture past magic and break his winless streak at Talladega. Where else could it possibly be better?
Then it’s four races and four drivers fighting for a championship. The son of a legend against the man who drives for his father’s old team and a two time champ and a four time champ.
Could NASCAR wish for anything better?
The only thing I wouldn’t discount is the 48. Johnson may have stumbled but people who win five championships never fall and I wouldn’t be surprised if our hero still has to contend with his stable mate before this Chase is through.
No matter, if I am exactly right or a tiny bit off, I still look for this to be a great Chase and Dale Earnhardt Jr to be right in the middle of it.
So buckle up and hang on – you won’t want to miss it!