Another Race, Another Disappointment For Earnhardt, Jr.

Charlotte, NC (July 27, 2009) – It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When Dale Earnhardt, Jr. left a struggling Dale Earnhardt, Inc. For Hendrick Motorsports at the start of the 2008 season, the horizon was full of possible victories and championships. Nearly two years later, those promises remain just that.

While his Hendrick Motorsports teammates continue to rack up wins and top finishes, Earnhardt has languished posting just one victory and a string of dismal results. The latest example of that came Sunday at Indianapolis where HMS stalwarts Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin finished 1-2. Meanwhile, Earnhardt came home 36th, this time the victim of a blown engine.

NASCAR Sprint Cup racing’s most popular driver certainly can’t be blamed for his most recent failure. Parts breakdowns happen. Unfortunately for Earnhardt and his legions of fans, the result – regardless of reason – was an all too familiar ending for the driver.

Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indy was ‘Little E’s’ 56th race in Hendrick iron. To date, he has just one win (Michigan, June 08), 11 Top-5 and 19 Top-10 finishes. In 21 of those 56 events, Earnhardt has finished out of the Top-20. His finishing average this season is 21.9, just a tick behind his 21.8 qualifying average.

In six of the last 10 races, Earnhardt has finished 26th or worse. During that span, his best finish has been a 12th at Dover. That’s left him buried deep in the points – 22nd – and missing the ‘Chase’ for the NASCAR championship for the third time in six seasons is all but assured.

Meanwhile, his Hendrick Motorsports teammates – Johnson, Martin and Jeff Gordon – have been tearing it up winning 15 of the 56 events since Earnhardt showed up at the team’s Concord, NC complex. Johnson has 36 Top-10 finishes in those events while Gordon has 33. Martin, meanwhile, has 10 Top-10’s in just 20 races for HMS this season. Earnhardt has just three Top-10’s this year.

While those comparisons may or may not be fair based on your perspective, Earnhardt’s stats are strikingly comparable to those of Casey Mears, who drove for HMS in 2007-2008. During that period, Mears scored one win, six Top-5 and 16 Top-10 finishes.

With no disrespect intended to Mears, that’s not exactly a stellar record of accomplishments.

For whatever reasons, things haven’t worked out Earnhardt in recent years – late in his stay at DEI or now with HMS. With just three wins in 138 races since the beginning of the 2006 season and just two victories in the Nationwide Series since 2005 (none since 2006), Earnhardt has had his moments in the sun but the truth is he is usually an also-ran – like Mears – in the vast majority of events he competes in.

During Sunday’s race from Indy, Earnhardt was featured in several television commercials. One of them had him talking about not running well and having to answer questions about his performance. In the end, Earnhardt concludes all is well because in his mind, he still thinks he’s the best.

Thinking you are the best might work for Earnhardt and his fans, but the numbers, trophies and titles tell a completely different story. Unlike all the commercials – they don’t mention Junior’s name much.

Like we said, it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

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