Dale Earnhardt not only won the race at Michigan Sunday ending a 143 race winless streak. He dominated the latter park of the race. He led 95 laps on his way to victory and pulled away by several seconds from the defending series champion Tony Stewart. All of a sudden Earnhardt Jr isn't just a driver who is second in points.
He is a championship contender. One of the favorites even.
The last time Dale Earnhardt Jr seriously contended for a championship was in 2006 when he finished fifth in points and was a mathematical threat all the way to the last race. This year it looks like he can do that again.
Earnhardt Jr has been strong all years. All of his finishes have been on the lead lap. He has only finished outside the top ten three times. That is an amazing 12 top ten finishes. Six top fives as well (same as Stewart). Also he has been in the lead for 218 laps. Far more than the 52 laps he led in 2011.
For the first time in a while it looks like Jr can win anywhere anytime. Even at tracks like Pocono where he has had limited success at best. Sonoma may be a different story as he hasn't recorded a top ten there yet. But he could surprise us.
Jr's cars have gotten better. His communication with his crew chief is better. But he himself has changed the way he approaches the sport He is as dedicated as ever to succeeding and is racing as hard as ever.
It will be interesting to see how Jr runs now that he has a win. Does he keep it going? Or does he falter a little as we seen other drivers do that win races.
It will be interesting. But don't count him out when we reach September.