For this Dale Jr. fan, it IS a national holiday!

The smile says it all. I'm winner!
Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images  
Four long years. Four long years that dragged on and on, with constant reminders that my driver hadn’t won a race. 143 races without a win, the continued comments, “When is Dale Jr. gonna win a race” started to take its toll on you as a fan.

But as a proud fan, I didn’t care if he never won again. Truth be told, I was content with him getting good finishes and being in the Chase. The only thing I ever want as a fan is for my driver to have good races.  Deep down I wanted a win, just one win, I just wanted the "winless" comments to finally stop. The hate comments and bashing would finally stop; they could see Dale Jr. like I see him, the way Jr Nation does: a winner.

Last week at Pocono was a heartbreaker for me; I thought finally we had the race won. But that’s the beauty of NASCAR. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, you never know when a caution will strike! Sadly for Jr. Nation and me, Pocono just ended in heartbreak. The drought kept growing and it seemed all I could wonder was when will it be his time in victory lane?

Returning to Michigan, the site of Dale. Jr.’s last win, always gave me chills. I would silently wonder, could he do it here again?  With it being fours year since his last victory, my mind was racing as fast as the cars were. I hoped deep inside he could he do it again.

The “Dark Knight Rises” paint scheme was amazing all weekend. It had been one of the few cars to reach over 200mph and it appeared as though Jr. was powered by Batman himself. Even with that, the dreaded thought inside kept hitting me: could it be fast when it counted the most? Would the naysayers again have a reason to say Jr. was unable to pull off a win?  Would I suffer another heartbreak like I did at Pocono...and let’s not forget the 2011 Coca Cola 600!

When the race first started, I won’t lie, seeing Dale Jr. running in the back I thought "Great this is it, so much for our shot at winning today." But like I said earlier, don’t count your chickens before they hatch! Before I knew it, that car was racing to the lead! That feeling of excitement and hunger started to resurface inside me again; even though I knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up, I did anyway. I didn’t care that I could once again be setting myself up for heartache, all I cared about was seeing Dale Jr. win. And on Father’s Day, the emotions ran even higher.

As the laps clicked away, I felt the pins and needles as I sat in my chair. My heart sounded like a clock ticking as it pounding harder as the checkered flag was soon coming. My emotions were high, my eyes were starting to fill with tears and I think I may have even forgot to breathe a few times because my heart and soul was tuned into that race watching Dale Earnhardt Jr. lead! All  the while wishing and hoping that nothing would prevent him from that win.

When that white flag waved over Earnhardt Jr.'s car, my heart just about exploded. I kept thinking of the things that could go wrong. As I pleaded for nothing to happen, my stomach full of knots and my eyes now pouring with tears, I watched that TV in agony - but also with excitement.  It felt like slow motion when that No. 88 “Dark Knight Rises” car finally crossed the finish line.

I stood up screaming, happy, crying happy tears, and above all smiling as big as I could. I got down and “Tebowed” in celebration, the emotion visible on my face. The last time Earnhardt Jr., won on Father’s Day, it was a tough day for me but seeing him win today just made it all worth while. Finally those comments would be over, no more “When will Dale Jr. win” nothing... the 143 winless streak was finally over! I could finally breathe a huge sigh of relief.

It hasn’t been an easy road being a Dale Jr. fan. It's been a continual roller coaster feeling. Many turn their backs when the going gets tough, but not me and not Jr. Nation. When you’re dedicated to a driver you stand by him through the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t quit when the going gets tough.

This season is far from over. It's only just begun in many aspects and so many events could happen between now and the Chase. I’m not saying Earnhardt Jr. is a certain championship pick but I wouldn't count him out. The fire in his eyes is back, the hunger and desire for more wins is evident, and the look of determination is on his face.

Whatever the season holds, you can count on one thing. This fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. will always be proud. Out of the ashes a Dark Knight Rises and he did just that on Sunday.
For this Dale Jr. fan, it IS a national holiday! For this Dale Jr. fan, it IS a national holiday! Reviewed by Lacy Page on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 Rating: 5