Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR. All Graphics designed by Toby Christie/Sicknissified.com.
*Editor’s note: Over the next 12 days we will be previewing the 2013 season for the drivers who made the Chase last season.
By: Toby Christie – Follow on Twitter @Tobalical
Coming off of arguably his most consistent year since 2004; Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte will look to take another step towards being champions in 2013. Earnhardt finally snapped a winless skid of four years in dominating fashion at Michigan last season. In all he led a total of 95 of the 200 laps that day in Michigan.
The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet was especially strong during the regular season, as he reeled off 18 top-15 finishes in the first 20 races of the year. Earnhardt also had completed every lap that had been contested in the 2012 season through the first 20 races.
Concussions that Earnhardt sustained in a tire test in Kansas, and again in a crash at Talladega in October axed any shot he had at the championship down the stretch, as he had to sit out two races to recover, but when all was said and done, the No. 88 team racked up a total of 20 top-ten finishes (the most Earnhardt has recorded in a season since 2004).
Earnhardt recorded his highest total of wins (one), top-fives (10), top-tens (20) and laps led (358) in any season since 2008, and his average finish for 2012 (10.9) was the highest he has ever recorded in a season. Earnhardt also has proved to be very easy on his equipment, as he was running at the finish of all 34 races he started in 2012. In the past three years he has recorded just two DNFs.
Dale Jr. heads into the new season with an extra spring in his step, as the new Gen-6 race car that will be ran in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season more suits his driving style then the old C-O-T which had been used since 2007. The aerodynamic numbers of the Gen-6 car match closer to the old style car that Earnhardt drove to 17 of his 19 career wins.
If he can stay healthy in 2013 expect Earnhardt to be a serious threat for his first Sprint Cup Series championship.
Starts: 34, Wins: 1, Top5: 10, Top10: 20, Poles: 1, Laps Led: 358, Average Start: 15.4, Average Finish: 10.9, DNF: 0
Starts: 469, Wins: 19, Top5: 105, Top10: 182, Poles: 11, Laps Led: 7,122, Average Start: 16.4, Average Finish: 16.4, DNF: 50