Dale Earnhardt Jr.: When Will He Finally Snap His Winless Streak?

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst IMay 15, 2011

DOVER, DE - MAY 13:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Amp Energy Sugar Free/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 13, 2011 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

There is one story in NASCAR that hasn't gotten a lot of coverage. In fact, it has received so little coverage that—for some reason—it appears to be completely flying under the radar.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in the midst of a winless streak.

I know that may be news to most people, but after doing a little research, it's true. For those of you who may have missed this news, he has now gone 103 races without a trip to victory lane.

This is by far the longest in his Sprint Cup career he has gone without a win. His previous winless drought came between 2006 and 2008, when it took 76 races. In fact, when he snapped that streak was the last time he won a race.

Not to nitpick, because frankly it doesn't matter how you win, but the last time Earnhardt Jr. won was strictly because his team played the fuel strategy game best, not because he had the best car.

But hey, a win is a win.

While Earnhardt Jr.'s now three-plus years driving for Hendrick Motorsports have been nowhere near as successful as anyone expected, it also appears to be taking a turn for the better this season.

After two dismal years in 2009 and 2010, which saw him score a total of 13 top-10 finishes between the two seasons, Earnhardt Jr. has turned things around in 2011.

He is currently in fourth place in points through 10 races, which is quite an improvement from the last two seasons—25th and 21st, respectively.

He has posted top-10 finishes in half of this year's 10 races, and he has only finished outside the top 20 once. That came in the season-opening Daytona 500, where he was involved in a late-race accident after having a dominant car all race.

While Earnhardt Jr. is expected to win every season, most people feel his winless streak is coming to a close because of the strong runs he has recently had.

When and where will it happen?

Taking a look at the schedule and looking at Jr.'s recent runs at some of the upcoming tracks, we can get a better idea to that answer.

Based solely on statistics, this weekend at Dover is not going to be the weekend. In his last 12 starts at the "Monster Mile," he has scored just two top 10s. Worse yet, eight of his 12 finishes have been outside the top 20.

The series will then take a week off from points competition to run the All-Star Race, which Earnhardt Jr. hasn't qualified for yet. Once again, that may be a story the media has overlooked.

After the All-Star Race, the series will stay put in Charlotte for the traditional running of the Coca Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend. This is yet another track that has recently been nothing but bad news for "Little E."

In his last five starts at NASCAR's home track, he has a best finish of just 22nd.

Kansas follows Charlotte. Following the theme, this has been another cruel track for Earnhardt. In his 10 career starts at the mile-and-a-half track, he has just four top 10s with a best finish of sixth.

Pocono and Michigan are the two tracks immediately following Kansas. While his most recent win came at Michigan, that is the only time in 45 combined starts at these two tracks that he has ever been to victory lane.

Aside from that win, his recent results at these two tracks has been average at best. If he wins in the next five points races, Michigan is the likeliest of choices, but I'm still not going to put money on it.

After Michigan comes Sonoma. If you think Earnhardt has any chance there, then statistics mean absolutely nothing to you. In 11 starts at the California road course, Earnhardt has never finished inside the top 10, and he has only led laps in one of those starts.

Finally, after Sonoma comes the light at the end of the tunnel. The first weekend in July, the Sprint Cup Series will return to Daytona. This, Earnhardt Jr. fans, is where you will see your driver end that long winless streak, which will be at 109 races by that point.

If you are an Earnhardt Jr. fan, all I ask is this—hold out just a little bit longer. The win should be coming soon.

On behalf of those of us who aren't die-hard Earnhardt Jr. fans, I hope it gets here sooner rather than later, because while I made light of his winless streak not being covered earlier, the truth is— I, along with many other race fans, am getting tired of hearing about it on a week-to-week basis.

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