Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, answers questions before practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 12, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas.
(April 11, 2012 – Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images North America)
(PhatzRadio / USA Today) — FORT WORTH – For Dale Earnhardt Jr., the topic remains unavoidable despite recent strong performances. It’s been 135 races since his last NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.
When will he win again?
Kevin Harvick can sympathize. He went winless for 115 races following his 2007 Daytona 500 victory, finally ending the drought in April 2010 at Talladega Superspeedway.
“We went through it right at 100 races,” Harvick prior to Thursday’s Sprint Cup practice for the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. “But just to live it on a weekly basis and have to answer some crazy questions. … I feel sorry for him sometimes.”
As much as he’d like to know the answer, Earnhardt said Thursday he isn’t facing the question all that often — at least to his face.
“I haven’t really had to answer that question too much,” he said. “People know I’m not Nostradamus, so they don’t ask me questions about the future.”
On the racetrack (consecutive third-place finishes) and on paper (he’s second in the points standings with four top-10s in the first six races), Earnhardt Jr. appears on the cusp of a breakthrough.
So, could this be the week? Texas is the track where Earnhardt produced his very first Cup victory in 2000.
“We’re better this year than we were last year and better than the year before that,” Earnhardt said. “We’re getting closer. … They’re giving me really, really good cars and (we) deserve to win races.
“The races just can’t come quick enough for us. … I feel like we’re gaining on getting to victory lane, so obviously you want the races to come as fast as they can come.”
Harvick can envision an end in sight to Earnhardt’s winless streak, but not necessarily the end to the questions.
“Running in the top five, he doesn’t have to dodge (the question) nearly as much as he did before,” Harvick said. “But the pressure that this sport puts on you in general: The first thing you (news media) guys will ask him after he wins a race is, ‘When are you going to win championships?’ “