Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports

by KFFL Staff on January 20, 2011 @ 17:44:00 PDT

 


Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 Mountain Dew AMP Energy Drink/Army National Guard Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Junior's 2010 season started with a bang but fizzled to a 21st-place finish in the final standings. He ended the year with three top-five finishes, eight top-10s and an 18.6 average finish. More importantly, he was unable to get to Victory Lane and failed to make the Chase yet again.

He opened the year with a second-place finish and had only four finishes outside the top 20 in the first half of the year. That consistency vanished in the second half, and he finished outside the top 20 in 12 of the 18 races and cracked the top 10 just twice. Junior went from Chase contender to afterthought seemingly overnight.

The offseason brought another round of changes for the No. 88 bunch, and Junior will now share a garage with five-time defending champ Jimmie Johnson. In addition, Steve Letarte will come over from Jeff Gordon's team and serve as crew chief for Junior in 2011. While the changes look good on paper, it's tough to believe they will suddenly make Junior a contender again. He has admitted that a lack of confidence is part of the problem, and that is something Junior has to fix on his own.

In the meantime, Junior should be considered a low-end top-25 driver and nothing more. He may have won the Most Popular Driver award eight years in a row, but popularity doesn't factor in to a driver's fantasy value. Junior remains a strong option at superspeedways and even at short tracks, but he is far too inconsistent at intermediate tracks right now. Michigan and Atlanta have remained two of his better tracks, but it is a roll of the dice nearly everywhere else.

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