Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. Get His Groove Back with the New Car?

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 11:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Chevrolet, speaks with the media during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway on January 11, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been a bit like a fish out of water with the Car of Tomorrow (COT) that was raced in NASCAR's premier series from 2007 through 2012. 

Now the game changes with the Gen-6 car that harkens back to his best days of racing.

While testing the new car at Charlotte in December, Earnhardt expressed his enthusiasm about the new car while also making his feelings known about its predecessor, the COT.

He stated, "The COT was just frustrating for me. I never really connected with that car from the beginning. Just personally, I didn't like the car. I didn't appreciate it for what it was."

Junior added, in reference to the new car, "I like it already leaps and bounds beyond the COT, the old car that we ran. This car really gives me a lot of the sensations that are similar to the old car that we ran 10 years ago."

The driver of the No. 88 for Hendrick Motorsports has 19 career wins with 17 of those coming during a seven-year period (2000-2006). He won the Daytona 500 in 2004.

Earnhardt is an old-school driver, who likes to really have to drive the car rather than having a car that is aero-dependent like the COT was.

The Gen-6 car is sleek, fast and loose, and that is just the way Earnhardt likes his cars. It was obvious during Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona that the new car is loose in a pack.

When Earnhardt attempted to do a bit of bump drafting during the second day of testing, he made contact on the backstretch with Marcos Ambrose, causing him to turn with a dozen cars in the ensuing multi-car wreck.

While his detractors may think that he should have lifted to avoid the incident, being that it was a test session, he may have tipped his hand with his ability to bump and run unscathed in his Chevrolet SS.

The unfortunate melee that caused many teams to pack up and return to North Carolina may also have shown us that bump drafting may not be an option. Drivers may not be able to push with these cars, at least not like they could with the COT.

NASCAR made the decision to build a car that would bring the fans back with brand identity and more exciting racing. It looks as though they have accomplished their goals.

The new car is somewhat old school with the way it drives. The driver is able to move around on the track with the Gen-6 race product. We should again see racing that is truly in the hands of the drivers.

Earnhardt had a good season in 2012 having made the Chase. He broke a four-year winless streak at Michigan with an average finish of 10.9 during the season.

Though it has been said many times, this really could be his best year in quite some time. He has the desire to win, the team to support him and now he has the car.

So Junior may well get his groove back with the new, retro car.