Gas 'N' Go: Should Earnhardt Be Disappointed With Season?

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. could be headed for his best finish in the points since 2006 and has tied his career-high with 21 top-10s finishes, but he remains winless this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

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The pits are open again and, MotorRacingNetwork.com's Pete Pistone and Dustin Long each answer this week's featured question in "Gas 'N' Go."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is on the verge of finishing in the top five in points, but if he doesn't win a race, should this season be considered a disappointment?

MRN Staff

Answer

Pete Pistone
Pete Pistone

Earnhardt's year absolutely should be remembered as successful even if he ends the season without a win. Junior has a chance to finish in the top five of the Sprint Cup Series point standings, a spot about 30 other full-time drivers would trade with him in a heartbeat. He's been consistent most of the season, especially in the Chase. After his blown engine in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, he's put together the second-best average finish among the title contenders to the tune of 5.9.

Yes, in order for Earnhardt to legitimately contend for a championship, he has to find a way to get to Victory Lane and not just on a token basis but multiple times a season. It's not that the No. 88 team isn't capable of that happening given the consistent top-five and runner-up performances in 2013. 

Certainly, perhaps more than any driver outside of Danica Patrick, Earnhardt is scrutinized the most. But his record this past season is one that should be applauded not criticized despite his lack of wins.

Dustin Long
Dustin Long

It should be considered disappointing. The goal is to win - win races, win a championship. While Earnhardt has taken a step forward and had a strong season, the ultimate goal is to win and he hasn’t done that.

Applaud him for being in position to have his best finish in the Chase since 2006, but that’s still not good enough to win a championship. Applaud him for having the best eight-race average since he’s been at Hendrick Motorsports, but it takes 10 strong races to win a championship and the blown engine at Chicagoland Speedway put him way behind.

Yes, appreciate the progress he and his team have made this season but demand more. They do. Earnhardt turns 40 next year. Certainly time remains to win a title, but the window of opportunity is shrinking. Earnhardt and his team should feel good about moving forward but disappointed with not reaching their full potential.

 

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