Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A changing attitude with Dale Earnhardt Jr?

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

Having finished a dismal 25th place in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup, the series' most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr maintained a tone of optimism. Despite being at his worst, the driver of the #88 Chevrolet has shown exceptional class in dealing with everything from engine problems, driving severely-damaged stock cars or adjusting to team personnel changes. With 2010 working as a clean slate, it remained to be seen if Dale Earnhardt Jr's positiveness would be rewarded. Having been used to happy-go-lucky Dale Earnhardt Jr, the driver got out of his #88 Chevrolet sounding like a different competitor. Appearing to be more personality traits in common with Kyle Busch after a bad race, the 2004 Daytona 500 winning driver clearly conveyed frustration and disgust taking second best in the first race of the year.

With 6 wins on restrictor plate race tracks Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Earnhardt Jr is favoured more in the four total races run at those ovals over almost any other venue. As hoped for by JR Nation, the green and white #88 AMP Chevy put on a magnificent show on the final green-white-checkered period of the 2010 Daytona 500. Exhibiting a marvelous piece of restrictor plate racing, Earnhardt Jr methodically worked his way from an obscure 10th place to have a chance to win the Daytona 500 coming up just one position short. As Jamie McMurray and his newly-acquainted with #1 Chevrolet crew celebrated an emotional triumph at Daytona, the second place interview happened to catch the attention of some NASCAR fans watching the broadcast on Fox.

While paying congratulations to McMurray and the victorious #1 crew (A team which was founded by the senior Dale Earnhardt 12 years ago), Earnhardt Jr also gave credit to Hendrick Motorsport's engine department. However, the driver left without giving credit for himself. Typically Dale Earnhardt Jr is a modest driver but some NASCAR fans felt the post-race comments were unprofessional during the spontaneity of the Fox interview unwilling to gracefully accept the 2nd place run.

Anyone who is a careful observer of professional sports knows that athletes stride to be at the highest plateaus. Speaking like a true racer playing to win, the fans composing Jr Nation are certain to give their driver a well-earned applause for the #88 Hendrick Motorsport driver. Appreciating the optimism that the 2010 Sprint Cup season can bring, Earnhardt Jr's fanbase have eagerly awaited the renaissance of their favourite sportsman. It is also the good nature of fans to elevate their athlete's confidence. The post race TV interview might have sat badly with some JR Nation fans since the only thing worse than seeing a good man be torn down is a man who will tear themselves apart.

Besides the Fox post-race chat, Dale Earnhardt Jr convened for a separate NASCAR interview. In that interview performed in great detail with Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and 3rd place Greg Biffle, Earnhardt was much more in character commenting on the event. "I had a hell of a time tonight" Dale Earnhardt Jr happily chirped as he described the final laps of the 2010 Daytona 500 as a "blur". Following the frustrated admissions late in the television broadcast, the NASCAR post-race interview provided a more sportsmanlike reflection from Earnhardt Jr. "I feel good about the finish. It's just frustrating coming that close. Hell, I don't have anything to be -- you know, when you're running 22nd, you're mad because you just want to get a top 10. When you get a top 10, you're pissed off because you can't get in the top five. Then when you're running second it gets you mad because you didn't get a win. That's how racecar drivers are, I hope."

However, as this more intense attitude emerges from Dale Earnhardt Jr, the naysayers of the third-generation stock car driver's career have above all questioned Earnhardt Jr's hunger to win. Clearly, Dale Earnhardt Jr is starving in 2010!

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