No doubt that Dale Earnhardt Jr is the most popular driver in the sport, but is he overrated or underrated? Has he met expectations of fans and the media around Nascar nation?
I believe that he is still underrated.
Dale Jr has had to deal with a lot more adversity than other drivers and has been through things that could have easily broke him down mentally. Yet, year in and year out he contends for a championship.
Yes there have been years where he has not made the chase but it was not because of driver error. He had close to a dozen engine failures and yet barely missed the chase.
You have to remember that he was driving for his father's wife for all but one year while he was with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
People expect him to be his dad. He is nothing like his dad. Not in a sense of how good he is or the skills he has but in a sense of driving style.
Dale Jr is cleaner than his daddy was. And yes maybe because he might have a lack of aggression on the track it might have cost him some wins, but it also might have gotten him some wins too.
Last year at Hendrick Motor Sports he had a stellar first half of the season and if not for the crash he was involved in at California he could have been leading the points race at the half way mark.
If not for the chase rules of drivers having a ten race playoff, Dale Jr still ends up finishing ahead of Jimmie Johnson and at least seven other chase contender's.
This year Dale Jr will have at least five wins. He has had a year to gel with his new team and the system and now knows what he can do and can't do with Hendricks racing equipment, which is a big step up from the equipment at DEI.
I wouldn't be one bit surprised if he swept speed weeks and even dominated the Dayton 500. This will be the year where Dale Jr will shut the loud mouths of his critics and the media that say he cant do it, he doesn't have the skill, that he is not motivated enough, and that he may never win a championship.
He might not win the championship this year, but he will be there in the hunt in the last race of the season.
So really ask yourself, whether you're a critic, the media, or just a fan, do you still think Dale Jr is overrated?