We are six races into the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and while looking over the standings, there is one very familiar name which was almost extinct at this time last season.
After dominating NASCAR’s most popular driver award voting for the sixth straight year, and seventh overall in 2009, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet Impala, knew he needed to give his fans something more to cheer about other than an award where the voting could easily be manipulated.
For Earnhardt, his biggest challenge before the season began would be to put aside all the distractions from last year's depressing finish, along with the pre-season expectations that go along with having one the most famous names in NASCAR history.
Most drivers call them the perks of being the most popular driver in the series, but for Earnhardt the perks go beyond the challenges of being the most popular driver.
The fact he is racing for a team which has won the last nine of 15 Sprint Cup championships, which also includes the last four-in-a-row.
This alone puts on an extra amount of incentive to perform, in order to keep the fans from questioning whether or not he has what it takes to make the 2010 Chase.
So far Earnhardt has methodically put himself into the top 10 in the point standings, which is one reason he walks around with a big smile along with a positive attitude.
At the same time lurking in the shadows are the nay-sayers who are foaming at the mouth, while waiting for their chance to pounce on the first opportunity if and when Earnhardt does have another driving meltdown.
It’s also from that same foam where all the hate and disgusting words are spouted from the so-called fans who have no idea what kind of pressure he is under.
It’s really sad that some have started their own crusade to attack a driver who has really done nothing wrong, except strap himself behind the wheel week in and week out like any other driver out on the track today.
For those who have chosen to support him during his times of trial, this could very well be the season when all of that patience pays off.
Earnhardt has made it known that no one driver is perfect, and they all make mistakes. It is unfair for anyone to think that he is some sort of god with inhuman type of characteristics.
The true test of a person’s character is not how they handle winning, instead it comes out in defeat because with winning a person's emotions flow automatically.
Earnhardt has shown a level of consistency no matter what the circumstances are, and even more so since his last win on June 15, 2008.
Life itself is not always about the "W” in the win column that’s important, but it’s the “W” in the people's lives he has touched in a positive way which can be just as important.
His father would be really proud if he were alive today, and that can be attributed to the positive way he has portrayed the sport that his father and grandfather loved so much.
That alone carries a lot more respect than any trophy can ever bring, because just like the trophy, it has to be earned.
Its easy to see how much he is loved and respected by his fans, and this is something that no trophy can ever fulfill because it has no feelings on the inside.
So whatever you do, don’t change a thing about who you are or what you believe in, because the true measure of a man will always come down to the way that you have portrayed yourself.
Even though there are those who would beg to differ, you have passed that test with flying colors.
Earnhardt lives by the words of his father, "My dad always said to me, if you were gonna be really good, you learned from your mistakes.”
His teammate Mark Martin once said that, “ Dale Jr. has the strongest shoulders in NASCAR, and its incredible how crushing the spotlight is on him.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is undeniably one of the most popular figures in all of sports, and with all that popularity come the expectations which he is ready to face head-on. “ Last year, I made a lot of mistakes,” Earnhardt admits.
Earnhardt also added that, "I hate talking about it. But we have to rebound, and I think I’ve definitely got what it takes.”