Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I Understand How My Fans Feel

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a passionate Washington Redskins fan, about as dedicated as they come.

But for the last few years, the Redskins haven't been very good. And at the same time, they've gone through several coaching changes.

Each time, Redskins fans like Earnhardt Jr. are left to wonder if the upcoming season will be any better.

Sounds like the situation for Earnhardt Jr. himself, doesn't it?

"Every year as a Redskins fan, you sort of go through this," he said. "I've got an app on my phone that pretty much pushes anything that if they're mentioned on the Internet, I get the news.

"You're just waiting on one of those articles to tell you about some big free agency pickup or what their plans are in the draft. You piece everything together before the season starts and start to form your idea whether you think they're a better team or not."

All of this has direct parallels to Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 team. Having changed shops and crew chiefs in the offseason (Earnhardt Jr. is now paired with Jimmie Johnson's team and has Steve Letarte as his crew chief), NASCAR's most popular driver understands his fans are looking for some hope.

But he also knows that whether they believe his team is improved or not, Junior Nation will still be there.

"(As a Redskins fan), sometimes you think this isn't the right way to go, but you're still a fan," he said. "Regardless of whether you like their quarterback or you think they've got a good receiving corps or not, you still as a fan decide to go into the season just as devoted and ready for the success or the same failure."

So will Earnhardt Jr. fans have more to cheer about this year? Earnhardt Jr. said he's not ready to make any declarations, because he's not sure of exactly how he fits into the team. He and his crew are still learning each other's personalities and adjusting to new faces.

The one thing Earnhardt Jr. could say confidently was that his relationship with Letarte could help him stay positive during races.

"(Letarte) has got a great personality, a lot of energy and hopefully I can depend on that energy in certain times throughout certain races," he said. "When you need somebody to gear you up and let you see things a little differently than you see at the time, maybe he can keep me on my toes (and) be a cheerleader – or whatever you want to call it."

Earnhardt Jr. reiterated that he's "sick of how we've ran over the last several years" and is ready for a change in performance. And he knows that can't come soon enough for some his loyal fans who are starving to see a win.

"The toughest part about all that – being a race fan or a Redskins fan – is all the waiting," he said. "Fortunately in NASCAR, you don't have to wait very long."

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