Talladega Dateline: Junior Nation Holds Their Breath

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IApril 16, 2011

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 05:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet, signs his autograph in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 5, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Junior Nation gets a double dose of their beloved driver at Talladega Superspeedway as they hold their collective breath awaiting a win.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive the No. 7 Suave Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Aaron's 312.  Appearances in this series for the owner/driver at JR Motorsports are sparse.

Earnhardt Jr., who is currently sixth in the Sprint Cup series point standings, will attempt to end his 100-race winless streak in the Aaron's 499.

The driver of the Amp Energy/National Guard No. 88 is the emotional favorite to win if his fans have their way.

A victory at the track where his father had his last win in 2000 would be that much sweeter for Junior.

Mass reaction by fans, whether it is positive or negative for a driver, is always an interesting phenomenon. For those who consider themselves solid members of Junior Nation, the reaction can elicit incredible enthusiasm, even at driver introductions.

No other active driver can evoke emotion in NASCAR like Earnhardt Jr. Even casual race fans that find themselves in the grandstands at a NASCAR Sprint Cup race may have a glazed look when the No. 88 takes the lead and the crowd goes wild.

For fans of Earnhardt Jr., the wait for the next win is exhausting. The chance of a double victory with him running in two series on the same weekend offers a glimpse of racing nirvana.

Talladega is indeed Earnhardt territory with the history of a record 10 wins for the late seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) champion.

Five of the 18 career Cup wins for Earnhardt Jr. came at Talladega Superspeedway when he drove for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

Talladega is a wild-card track because of the variables that play into the outcome of the race.

The big wreck, known as the "Big One" can be a points maker or heartbreaker. The two-by-two couplings, radio communications, exchanges and potential over-heating are all major factors in the strategy to run for a win on this restrictor-plate track.

As Junior Nation watches from the stands, view their televisions, listen to a radio or use some other electronic media, they will hold their collective breath.

Is it possible their driver, Dale Jr., will make his way to Victory Lane at Talladega? If he does, the media will flood every outlet with the comeback stories and his fans everywhere will exude feelings of euphoria.

A win by Junior will not only restore the faith of his fans, but bring much needed attention to NASCAR.

Whether you are a Earnhardt Jr. naysayer or avid fan, hold on tight for the vortex of air from those fans who are waiting to exhale if indeed he wins the Aaron's 499.


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