Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the best known NASCAR drivers in the world. Not only is he known for the skills he possesses on the track, he is also the son of Dale Earnhardt, the man who left a legacy on racing that will never be forgotten. While Earnhardt Jr. has not had the best past couple of years, he remains optimistic that the 2014 Sprint Cup Series will be his time to shine.
“Let's be honest, where I am as a driver I feel like I'm on the verge of breaking through and having possibly one of my best seasons,” Earnhardt Jr. said.
Earnhardt Jr. has not won a restrictor-plate race since 2010, when he won the Daytona 500 and the Talladega's fall race. While he seemed to be making a comeback in 2013, he always fell short, landing in the second place slot. He came in second five times last season finishing fifth in points, and has ranked second three times, during the Daytona 500, in the past four years.
“We ran second a lot last year, and that felt great,” said Earnhardt Jr. “It was a statement to us that what we're doing is working. Maybe, this is the year we turn the corner. It doesn't wear on me mentally, but it motivates and ticks me off," he continued. "When you see videos of last year, I see everyone else (Hendrick Motorsports teammates) in those videos holding trophies and celebrating wins. The only shots of me are those of me walking around pit road.”
Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief Steve Letarte also thinks that 2014 will be his year. “By no doing of his own, Junior has a persona that's bigger than any one person you can ever meet,” Letarte said. “No one can live up to what the fans want him to be. He loves the sport, and he wants to win every week. It's surprising that a guy that good hasn't won at Daytona in 10 years. But I can think of some of the close runs we've had. If he continues to put himself in position, then he'll break through.”
Speaking of Letarte, he announced, in early January, that he would be leaving to take a job with NBC. Like he did last time, Earnhardt Jr. will be handing over the task of choosing a new crew chief to Rick Hendrick. Hendrick made the decision to hire Letarte back in 2010, after an unsuccessful year with crew chief Lance McGrew. “I won’t make any suggestions at all,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.
“I’m ready to win races,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I think that the team is getting really close to being able to accomplish that.”
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