Dale Earnhardt Jr: Too Little, Too Late

Camille JonesContributor IIIAugust 24, 2010

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 21:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

With a paint scheme fit to match the wild, it was certain Dale Jr and is No. 88 Realtree Outfitters car were at the right place, ready to take on Bristol Motor Speedway, the so-called "World's Fastest Half Mile" for Friday night's Nationwide Series race, the Food City 250.

While he was starting from a back-of-the-pack 34th starting position, there was no hard time in spotting him as he gradually built up speed, heading towards the leading pack, closing out the night with a strong fourth place finish, something he knew may help in the Sprint Cup race the next evening. 

With struggles all this season, there were many in doubt on whether or not Dale Earnhardt Jr, Hendrick Motorsports driver, and owner of JR Motorsports, could bounce back from a long string of disappointing finishes. 

Now, not that Bristol's Saturday night Sprint Cup race was a real improvement, but it gave a part of Junior Nation a shock to finally see him bounce up into the top ten every once in a while, pedaling from the 27th starting position, fighting traffic, rivals, and an extremely loose car, to take home a 13th place finish. 

Though not the same rally as he performed in the Nationwide Series race, it still gave fans an opportunity to rise from their seats in hopes that he may get to mix it up with a few of the top runners.

Anyone watching can see the effort is there, but will he make it into The Chase? It's not even feasible. The disappointment will strike him yet again and leave his die-hard fans wondering what happened to the old Junior, contending for a win almost every weekend. 

But for now, its got fans waiting with angst, knowing that he still has the will, let alone the skill, to take home yet another trophy some day.