2010 Stats: Points Finish 21st, 0 Wins, 3 Top Fives, 8 Top Tens, Average Finish 18.6, Average Running Position 18.9, Laps Led 183, Driver Rating 75.7
2010 was another tough season for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the 88 team. The performances of this team are nowhere near any of his counterparts. Something was extremely wrong with this team and as a result Steve Letarte will be his new crew chief in 2011. How good is Steve Letarte? I don’t really know. Jeff Gordon had arguably his best statistical year with Letarte but he’s also only won once in the last three years.
Strengths – Dale Earnhardt Jr. is good on two styles of tracks. The big one’s like Daytona and Talladega and the smaller ones like Martinsville and New Hampshire.
Weaknesses – His problems are everything between the big ones and the small ones.
Intermediate Track Grade – C, Earnhardt Jr. had only two top tens at intermediate tracks in 2010. He finished 8th at Texas and 7th at Michigan. Intermediate tracks make up the core of the schedule and Earnhardt’s cookie cutter track struggles are no laughing matter. Significant gains must be made in this department in order for Junior to find success again. Traditionally Earnhardt’s best intermediate tracks have been Texas, Atlanta and Michigan.
Flat Track Grade – B, Earnhardt Jr. was pretty good on the short flat tracks in 2010 but flopped on the bigger ones. At New Hampshire he finished in the top ten twice and at Phoenix he just missed the top ten both trips. At Pocono and Indy he always ran better than he finished. In all three of the big flat track races he had an average running position that was between 5 and 9 better than he finished (both times when he finished 27th he had an average running position of approximately 18th).
Restrictor Plate Track Grade – B+, Earnhardt Jr. finished in the top ten in both Daytona races. In the Daytona 500 he made a mad dash to the front at the end and in the summer night race he was more of a “survivor”. At Talladega Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th and 39th.
Short Track Grade – B, I like Junior on short tracks. He’s capable of getting the job done on all three of them. That doesn’t mean it will happen though. In 2010 he finished in the top ten at both Bristol and Martinsville once. In his other trip to both of these tracks he finished in the low teens. At Richmond in 2010 things were bad (finished 32nd and 34th).
Road Course Track Grade – C, Watkins Glen had been really bad for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for a long time. His 5 year average finish there is 29.4. At Infineon things haven’t been as bad as you think. His five year average finish is 17.6. In three out of the last five years at Infineon he’s finished in the low teens.
How to use Dale Earnhardt Jr. from a Fantasy NASCAR perspective?Focus on using Dale Earnhardt Jr. on short tracks, short flat tracks and restrictor plate tracks.