The Unexplainable Mystique That Is Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst ISeptember 7, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - JULY 24:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, puts on his helmet in the garage prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 24, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

He hasn’t won a race since June 15, 2008, and so far this season he is sitting 21st in points and will once again miss the chase for the third time in his Sprint cup career.

We already know that he is the most popular driver in the Sprint cup series, and he is also one of the most recognizable athletes in the entire sports world today.

Wherever he goes whether at the track or in public, his popularity stature to NASCAR can easily be compared to the impact that Tiger Woods has had on golf.

There are not many drivers in the sport that have that type of influence, or that can draw in the fans even when their season is not living up to their expectations.

The passion that his fans have shown throughout his racing career is truly amazing, and it’s easily seen by the mobs that wait patiently just to get a glimpse of this driver who is almost bigger then the sport itself.

By the deafening cheers, to the sea of green, these are just a few of the actions that let the fans know whenever their driver has just taken the lead.

So as the season is just about over, and the same lingering questions are still being asked by those fans who just don’t understand exactly what this driver really means to the sport.

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These are also the same questions that the heads of NASCAR can't answer themslves.

So what exactly is it about the Earnhardt mystique that draws fans from not only around the country, but the world as well?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is far from the overly aggressive driver that his dad was famous for, and he is not even close to following in those same footsteps.

But instead Earnhardt Jr. has chosen a path that best suits his driving style, and a destiny that will hopefully take him to NASCAR superstardom someday.

Earnhardt’s demeanor is probably one of his biggest assets, along with his love for the sport, and the fact that he is very optimistic.

Optimism is a very big word when it comes to cup racing, especially when you start looking around at all the talent that is out there.

And even though Earnhardt is having his fair share of problems this season, each week he still pushes onward in hopes of trying to find that formula for success.

Earnhardt has always had high hopes for his team, and even through his failures he still walks around with a smile on his face.

“You are in this business to professionally succeed and win races and championships and that is your ultimate goal, and you should do everything you need to do as far as the pieces of the puzzle to get there.”

Earnhardt also added, “I understand that I need to run better. I understand that and I am out there busting my butt trying to make it happen. You are in a big sport and each wants to go out there and make it happen. I mean, we haven’t run well, and it is obvious. It is ok for people to point that out because it is a fact.”

Love is another word that can be combined together with the optimism that the teams need in today’s very competitive world of racing.

This right here could very well be one of the reason's behind the Earnhardt mystique.

When you think back to earlier in the season, Earnhardt showed a kind of love that is not seen that often in any sport.

Earnhardt stepped up to the plate in a very unusual and also a huge way when he made this statement.

This statement alone showed what kind of person he is on the inside, which is where a person’s true character always comes from while taking the brunt of the blame for Eury Jr.’s misfortunes this season.

“I put myself in this position. I feel bad for Tony, Jr. (Eury, crew chief) because he gets criticized so badly. I would rather be crucified than him."

Earnhardt went on to say, "Because every time I read in the paper that people are on his case, I feel like I am sending my brother to jail for a crime I committed, you know what I mean. I just wish it were an easier job for him and the guys on the team.”

Sometimes life’s biggest lessons are taught by those that we the fans of NASCAR call our own heroes.

Lessons in love and in keeping a positive outlook are only two of the many attributes that Earnhardt posses.

Friendship can also be added to that list, and Earnhardt knows first hand the value of a friendship. He not only displayed that with his Cousin Tony, but also the relationship that he and his JR Motorsports driver Brad Keselowski have built.

Once again the Earnhardt mystique was put to the test, and once again it got even more mysterious while passing with flying colors.

This time it wasn’t Earnhardt who expressed how he felt, but instead it was Keselowski who let the NASCAR world know exactly where Earnhardt stood on his career changing decision.

"Without a doubt, the hardest part was leaving JR Motorsports," Keselowski said. "But what made it easier for me was to have Dale's blessing to do it. Without it, it would have been much harder to do,” said Keselowski.

“And Dale, make no mistake, was the catalyst for my career, the one who called me up and said he believed in me even though other people within his company didn't. He's the one who took the risk, financially and with his reputation, to put me in that car, and I'm eternally grateful to him for that."

So when you look back to just how much Earnhardt values a friendship, it was Earnhardt who encouraged Keselowski to take the Penske opportunity.

Earnhardt knew that it was time for Keselowski to leave the nest, and to go to a team where he would have the opportunity to grow.

"He was actually one of the people who pushed me fairly hard to take this deal," Keselowski said. "As surprising as that might be to some of the people or the fans or the media, he brought up one of the good points that stuck with me when I made this decision, which was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life.”

So as Earnhardt continues to mature while walking down a path of uncertainty. His personality, as well as the mystique that makes Earnhardt who he is, has already begun taking its toll on not only him but those around him as well.

Even through all the controversy, and the shortcomings, Earnhardt is still able to hold his head up high and show a kind of love and compassion that is not found in most marriages today.

Earnhardt has taken that love to a whole new level the same way he did back in 2007, after leaving D.E.I. and coming over to H.M.S.

Not once did he ever put the blame on his step-mother Theresa, but instead he carried that situation upon his own shoulders, and told the fans not to bad mouth her the same way they did to Tony Eury Jr.

The mystique that makes Earnhardt who he is can easily be manifested in his love for the sport along with his positive outlook, and most importantly the way a friendship should always be valued as well as cherished.

We the fans of NASCAR should give credit where credit is due, because if we took these few lessons and applied them to our own lives the world around us would be a much happier place.

So it’s safe to say that it doesn’t take a winning season for a driver to have an impact on the sport the way that Earnhardt has.

Even away from victory lane, he still continues to be victorious just by his actions, and the way he portrays himself not only to his fans, but to those that have come in contact with him.

Besides, whom are we to pass judgment on someone who is trying to live a dream, while at the same time promoting the sport in a positive way?

One thing is for sure, the mystique that follows him around will always be just as mystical as the fans that choose to support him no matter if he wins or loses, because in the game of life he has already won.

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