"And the crowd went wild," at least for a little bit and so it should - Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a personal season high ninety laps in last Sunday's race.
Why is this important?
Because it's Dale Earnhardt Jr. and it gives his fans something to cheer about - something they haven't done much of this year.
Also, it gives his fans hope. Hope for success next year. And hope for next week. Can you imagine what it would be like if Dale Jr. were to win next week at the Earnhardt friendly Talladega Superspeedway? The track that his daddy, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. had much success at. The track that The Intimidator recorded his last victory at before his death in 2001.
In fact, this weekend's race at Talladega will be the tenth anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Senior's last victory ever.
If Dale Jr. were to win this weekend forget the whole crowd going wild, try the whole frickin' state of Alabama. Heck throw all of the north eastern United States in there too.
Imagine the big boost Earnhardt Jr, his team and his fans would get if he were to win this landmark race.
A win would signify to everyone that he and Lance were starting to put everything together and finally taking care of business - the business of winning that is.
Let's face it, Earnhardt Jr. hasn't had much success since joining the Hendrick organization in 2008 after leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. (a company founded by his late father). In the spring of 2007 Dale Jr. signed to drive for Rick Hendrick admid a cloud of controversy because of a power struggle over the control of DEI that would even make the Hatfields and McCoys envious. Since then he has only won twice (both in 2008) and only one of those was a points race. And that points race certainly wasn't won in dominating fashion either - he took a gamble with his fuel mileage and just happened to come out on the right side of the 'E' on the fuel gauge.
Quite frankly, it's been a while since Earnhardt Jr. has had what it takes to win a Championship. What is missing from that Championship formula?Collaboration, consistency, and confidence (other wise known as the three C's).
It takes the proper combination of the three C's to become another C which is a contender to win the BIG C - the Championship - and Earnhardt Jr. hasn't been anywhere close to being a contender for the Championship in years.
With lack of communication (hey another C) between himself and his Crew Chief, Lance McGrew, and to some extent McGrew's predecessor Tony Eury Jr., there has been no real collaboration or bond between Dale Jr. and Lance to build on in order to create confidence in both the driver and the team. And without confidence within the team and in the driver then there will be no consistency, except in losing.
But a win would change that, or at least slow down the free-fall enough so that the #88 team can get a handle on it and start working towards next year and the hope for a better season.
A win would ignite the team and the fans (both old and new) in such a way that they wouldn't even realize it. Sure they would feel good for their driver to win that race marked by such a special Earnhardt family memory but it will be the team work built on communication, consistency, and confidence in that "they can do it" attitude that will be the most important and hardly noticable factor that they would get out of the win.
A good finish would be nice for sure, but right now a win is more important than ever before to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his #88 team.
It would also continue to solidify the Earnhardt legend at Talladega.
Oh and one final note: Imagine how the crowd would react if Dale Jr not only won on the anniversary of his dad's last win but also on the same weekend that his nephew, Jeffery Earnhardt, also made (and perhaps won) the Truck race in his #6 Fuel Doctor/Firestop Chevy for the running of the Mountain Dew 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.