Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: To Be or Not to Be Champion

Heather L. RuelleCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2008

It would seem to me, as to anyone, that Kyle Busch has this championship lock, stock, and smoking gun. The smoking gun being that he drives a Toyota, and is wrecking people left and right to get attention.

He calls it his dream season, but for us fans, it has been far from it.

In my opinion, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch are running two entirely different seasons. One has been very consistent, the other has been rough and impetuous. As I write this, I'm wondering if it has to do with age and maturity. The blaring answer is yes, on both counts.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a 33-year-old man, whereas Kyle is 23. Kyle is being young and impetuous, whereas Dale is acting older and smarter. Dale also runs things old school and I think he's saving all these wins for the chase.

Jimmie Johnson was 10th in points at the end of last years' season in New Hampshire, and he won it. It ain't over until the checkered flag in Miami.

So, yes, Kyle has won seven races, but what does that really mean? That he has 70 points come the start of the chase, and that is it.

All the drivers in the top 12 will have 5,000 points at the start of the chase.

That puts Busch at 5,070, as of this moment. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will have 10 bonus points, but he also has the humble pie eaten, because he is humble. He learned how to maintain that demeanor a long time ago. Dale grew up in the shadow of his father, and despite all that, managed to become someone his father could be proud of, in absentia.

With that, we also don't want Kyle Busch taking home that beautiful checkered flag trophy at the end of this year. This young boy has not earned his licks in this sport yet. Dale Jr. has.

I know it's not a really material, but where Dale shines, Kyle fails miserably. He hasn't earned the right to be champion. This sport is brutal, and one day Kyle will undoubtedly learn that fact.

However, Dale is handling it right. He's being old school about it, and not going for the glory, the praise, and the accolades.

The unfortunate thing is this: If Dale Earnhardt, Jr. doesn't get the championship and the younger man does, they will call Dale overrated and think Kyle is the better driver.

Still, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s attitude about it will be, "Well, there's always next year."

In my own frame of mind, the pressure is on for Dale Jr. to win this year's championship, because he needs to. Also, if you look at it, it is pretty much anyone’s take. There always is that one dark horse.