2011 Stats: Points Finish 7th, 0 Wins, 4 Top Fives, 12 Top Tens, Average Running Position 16.1, Average Finish 14.5, Laps Led 52, Driver Rating 83.3
Strengths- Last season consistency was the key for his 7th place points finish. In 2011 he only finished 30th or worse twice.
Among track types he’s at his best on short tracks and plate tracks.
Weaknesses- Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t near the front of the pack very much last season. He only led 52 laps and only twice did he lead more than 10 laps in a race. In the spring Martinsville race he lead 19 laps which was nearly 37% of his total laps led.
Intermediate Track Grade- B+, In 2011 Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored the 8th most points on this track type. He didn’t score the eighth most points by dominating races, he accumulated the eighth most points by being consistent and avoiding really bad finishes. I think his 13.3 average finish should prove to be a pretty accurate indicator of what you should expect.
In the seventeen races on this track type last season Earnhardt Jr. had two top fives, six top tens and only led 5 laps. His consistency was found in his 11th through 20th place finishes (8 finishes in this range).
Look for his best intermediate track performances to come at Michigan, Atlanta and Texas.
Flat Track Grade- B, Last season Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the 10th best average finish on this track type (13.9). His best runs came at Pocono where he finished 6th and 9th. He had one other top ten at these venues last season and it was in the spring Phoenix race.
I like Junior at all of the flat tracks with the exception of Indy. In twelve races at the Brickyard he’s only finished in the top ten twice. Since his last top ten in 2006 his average finish is 25th.
Restrictor Plate Track Grade- B+, How can you not like Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the plate tracks? Liking him on these tracks is as American as apple pie. There’s lots of uncertainty on these tracks but one thing was certain last year and that was Dale Earnhardt Jr. would start near the front. Last season he had the second best average starting position (4.3). Only Jeff Gordon had a better average starting position (3.0). When you evaluate all of the plate races since 2008 he has the second best driver rating (93.6) and he’s tied for scoring the second most points per race (29 points per race).
Look for strong performances out of him at Daytona and Talladega this year. His last win on this track type was in 2004.
Short Track Grade- B+, It’s hard not to like Junior on short tracks. Currently his best short track is Martinsville. In his last three starts at NASCAR’s oldest track he’s finished 7th, 2nd and 7th. Martinsville is the one short track that he’s failed to finish first but he’s a consistent top ten threat.
In recent years his performances at Richmond haven’t been up to par with how he traditionally performs at “the action track”. He has three wins at Richmond but in the last six races he’s finished outside the top twenty every race.
Bristol has always been a good track for Earnhardt Jr. Among all the tracks on the circuit his best average finish is here (11.7). Since Bristol was reconfigured he’s been about a low teens to mid teens driver. Before the reconfiguration he was almost always a top ten driver.
Road Course Track Grade- B-, Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t been as bad as many would think at road courses. Typically people think he’s downright awful at road courses. At both tracks he’s finished in the top twenty in 50% of his races.
He doesn’t have a single top ten finish at Infienon but in the last nine years he’s finished 13th or better five times. That’s better than 50%. At Infineon he’s led a total of 9 laps in f his career. Last season he was parked early with overheating problems (finished 41st).
Watkins Glen has been tougher on him. In the last six races his average finish is 27th. Unlike Infineon he’s finished in the top ten here (3) and he’s led four times for a combined 46 laps.
How to use Dale Earnhardt Jr. from a Fantasy NASCAR Perspective in 2012? In 2012 I would focus on using Dale Earnhardt Jr. at short tracks and plate tracks. I would also consider using him short flat tracks, Michigan, Atlanta, Texas, Kansas, Pocono and Chicagoland.