Will Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Dark Knight Rises – Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet be the car to take him to victory lane at Michigan International Speedway?
|Dale Jr stands by his Dark Knight Rises car
Photo – PRNews/PepsiCo
Hope springs eternal for fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr, and with consistent performance so far in 2012, it seems his four-year winless drought may soon be over. Even Dale Jr. feels they’re getting close to a win.
“I feel like we’re getting really close. We’ve been really competing well and have been competitive every weekend and at every track. And that feels really good to say.” Dale Jr continues, “…We ran great last week. We had a strong car. So, the team is really excited. We’re just kind of going to each race track every weekend and seeing what kind of car we can put out on the starting grid on Sunday. I feel like if we keep going, we’re going to win some races. We’ve just got to keep working.”
This weekend at Michigan actually marks the four-year anniversary of Earnhardt Jr’s last visit to victory lane. To break his winless streak at the track of his last win would be a great transition for the team, but may prove to be a bit nerve-wracking for the driver if history repeats itself. Commenting about what stands out for Dale Jr. from his win four years ago, he said…
“Oh, probably just the nerves the last few laps and all those caution laps and knowing we had a green-white-checkered and not sure we had enough gas to make it.”
The high speeds seen at the Michigan track could impact fuel mileage again during the race on Sunday, which won’t help Earnhardt Jr’s nerves if he’s again in position to win the race. But speeds in excess of 200-mph don’t seem to be an issue for Dale Jr.
“The speeds don’t feel that fast. I feel like my car is going 180, but it says on the chart it’s going 200 or whatever. It just feels like it’s always felt here. It kind of just feels like qualifying, but there’s a lot of grip and the car is pretty comfortable.”
Dale Jr is promoting the new Batman movie – The Dark Knight Rises – this weekend, and contrary to what some may think would be pretty cool, the batmobile known as ‘The Tumbler’ is not the car Earnhardt Jr is driving in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan.
|The new Batmobile – The Tumbler
Photo – AP File Photo
“We’re just out here promoting the new Batman movie with Diet Mountain Dew. And that’s the ‘Tumbler,’ the new Batman mobile. It looks pretty cool. I’m interested in going up there and taking a better look at it myself. But it’s pretty exciting. I think it’s a great cross-promotion for Hollywood and NASCAR and hopefully they enjoy it and I’m sure we will.”
With Batman Black featured on his car – not a color Dale Jr. normally sports in the summer – perhaps he’ll change his hot weather color preferences if he does win. The “Dew Crew” is certainly hoping the Dark Knight Rises theme will take them to victory lane.
“…I normally wear white suits because of the heat in the summertime…” says Dale Earnhardt Jr. “I never remember driving a black car before, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Although, Dale Jr wants to celebrate in victory lane soon, he’s says it’s not the winless streak that keeps him sleepless in Kannapolis.
“There are other things about finishes and weekends and what happens to you on the race track that can bother way worse … to keep you up at night,” Junior says. “If you just have a bad day or make a mistake that can ruin a race for your team or whatever; if you’re that guy and make that mistake on that day, it’s difficult to go home and shake it off. So those kinds of deals are tough, but just the lack of winning and not getting in victory lane makes you really hungry and it makes you starve for it. Other than that it doesn’t really keep me up at night.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr’s goals go way beyond just winning a race in his near future – his eye is focused on a bigger goal of a championship in his sight and he wants a title added to his legendary name.
|The Sprint Cup Trophy awarded in Vegas
Photo – Chris Graythen/Getty Images
“I want to try to win a championship. That’s what you run the whole season for and our team has really, really good speed now. We ran well last year in the Chase, but we weren’t in the battle for the championship. We did well; we did better than I think a lot of people anticipated us doing in the Chase. And so, we’ve put together a lot of great and consistent races and we’re second in points right now.” Dale Jr continues with, “And so if we can put together this type of performance in the Chase, I don’t see why we can’t consider ourselves with an opportunity to challenge for the championship. And we’ve got to go into that with great confidence. So I want to keep plugging away and tying to stay healthy as a team.”
Timing just seems right for Dale Jr. to transition his winless streak with a win at the track that gave him his last victory and as a fitting Father’s Day tribute to his famous dad. Indeed, a win would be a nice transition toward a path leading to a championship and seems to be the desired goal for NASCAR’s most popular driver and what he wants most.
So, even though Junior fans have been in-waiting four years to see their favorite guy in victory lane, it makes sense they also want to savor a championship even more!