Back Seat Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Texas Motor Speedway

Photo: LAT Photographic  via
I want Dale Earnhardt Jr. to break his winless streak under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway on April 14 in the Samsung 500.

I know that as a member of the media I'm supposed to remain impartial, but I'm a race fan, too, or I wouldn't be writing for this website. And I don't make this statement as a Junior fan, but as a NASCAR fan. Pretty much everyone in the sport agrees that a win for Junior is a win for NASCAR in general. Whether that's a fair burden to place on the shoulders of one man is beside the point and not something on which I want to focus right now. 

Keep in mind, I'm not a part of Junior Nation. I like Junior, but my interest at this juncture comes as much from being a fan of the sport, as well as from wanting him to move on from all the pain and the drama in his life over the last 11 years. 

So just as parts of the Lone Star State are ending a long rough drought, I’d rather Earnhardt Jr. end his win drought at my home track. It is, I admit, partly because I’ll be there to see it, to experience the frenzy that's sure to occur if NASCAR’s most popular driver wins at The Great American Speedway, whether he wins this weekend or not. Track president Eddie Gossage puts on a heck of a show and an Earnhardt victory would give Gossage something to promote just as energetically as he did the "Smoke" vs. "Cousin Carl" battle last November.        

If the No. 88  AMP Energy/National Guard car rolls into victory lane this Sunday, I’ll be happy for him as well as for Rick Hendrick with that 200th Cup win. But the Texan in me wants that to happen on the high banks of TMS, where the cars take your breath away when they thunder past you into the turns at 200mph, not on the small stage of the Paperclip.   

It’s the place about which Jade Gurss said in his book In The Red, "In his [Earnhardt’s] short career, it was the only track where he had achieved far more than his father, who had never won a race at the 1.5-mile D-shaped oval."

If you go by just the numbers, Earnhardt Jr. has consistent results in his 24 starts at Martinsville:

Top-5: 9
Top-10: 13
Average start: 13.4
Average finish: 13
Laps lead: 865 (454.99 miles total on the 0526-mile track)

His overall Texas results are good, but slightly less impressive in 19 starts:

Top-5: 3
Top-10: 10
Average start: 11.2
Average finish: 14.1
Laps led: 448 laps led (672 miles on the 1.5 mile oval)

Except that Earnhardt Jr. has something at Texas he doesn’t have at Martinsville: wins. 

He won his first Busch race at Texas Motor Speedway — his first career NASCAR race, actually. He won his first Winston Cup race at TMS, leaving Earnhardt fans, of both Big E and Little E,  with a precious memory.


I’m not a driver (obviously) but I think I’d be more confident running at a track where I had a win or two than ones where I didn’t. Besides, according to Gurss, Earnhardt said, “I like Texas and Texas likes me.” 

Sure, I'll cheer for him if he wins Sunday at Martinsville. I'll cheer when he wins after that. And of course, I'll celebrate whoever wins the April 14th race. But I'm just putting it out there to the racing gods ... if you want to see a good show, let Dale Earnhardt Jr. win at Texas Motor Speedway. Then just sit back and watch. 
Back Seat Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Texas Motor Speedway Back Seat Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Texas Motor Speedway Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Saturday, March 31, 2012 Rating: 5