Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2014 Stats: Points Finish 8th, 0 Poles, 4 Wins, 12 Top Fives, 20 Top Tens, Average Running Position 12.3, Average Finish 12.2, Laps Led 383, Driver Rating 97.8
Strengths – Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a versatile driver who can perform good at many different tracks types. In 2015 look for his best days to come at flat tracks, short tracks and intermediate tracks.
Weaknesses – Despite his success at road courses last year I still wouldn’t recommend picking him with any conviction. Talladega hasn’t been friendly to him recently and in four of the last five races he’s finished 17th or worse.
Track Type Fantasy ValueKey=Elite > High > Moderate >Low
Intermediate Track Fantasy Value – High
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was consistent and fast at intermediate tracks last year. He didn’t win any races but he did finish in the top ten nearly 50% percent of the time. In 15 of these 17 races he finished in the top twenty. For the season at these venues he had a 13.4 average finish, 95.5 driver rating and scored the 10th most points. Over the last four seasons at intermediate tracks his average points ranking is 10.25 (6 year average intermediate rankings). In terms of his level of performance I thought he was just one step below the elite drivers.
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Flat Track Fantasy Value – Elite
No driver was better than Dale Earnhardt Jr. on flat tracks last season. In the 7 races on this track type he scored the most points, had a 5.7 average finish and was the only driver who finished in the top ten every race.
His best flat track last season was Pocono. The “Tricky Triangle” wasn’t tricky to him and he won both races. Since Pocono was repaved he’s arguably been the best driver. Currently he has 4 consecutive top fives and has finished in the top ten in 7 of the last 8 races. In the one race over this stretch he didn’t finish in the top ten he had top five potential but had transmission issues.
Indy is the other big flat track and at that venue he currently has 3 consecutive top tens. Last season he finished 9th.
Earnhardt Jr. has never been to victory lane at the New Hampshire but he has been successful. Currently he has three straight top tens there. Since 2012 at New Hampshire he has the 8th best driver rating and a 9.3 average finish.
Phoenix has been kind to him. In the last two seasons in the desert he’s finished in the top 8 every race. Last year he had results of 2nd and 8th.
Short Track Fantasy Value – Elite
Dale Earnhardt Jr. can never be counted out on short tracks. With his win at Martinsville in October he’s now one of just a handful of active drivers who’ve won at all three venues. Between the three short tracks Martinsville is his best right now. He had results of 1st and 3rd last season and since October 2010 he’s only finished outside the top ten twice.
At Richmond he’s performed very well recently but he’s not on par with the elite drivers there. Over the last five Richmond races he’s finished between 7th and 14th every race. Look for that to be his finish range once again in 2015.
Bristol has been a good track for Dale Earnhardt Jr. but last year was rough on him. Last August he had top five potential but got collected in a wreck and finished 39th. In March 2014 he looked like a top five contender for the first 150 laps but after that he had some sort of tire issue that affected the handling of his car which relegated him to a poor result. Prior to 2014 he was one of the best drivers at Bristol over the last decade.
Last season on short tracks he scored the 6th most points despite his Bristol wreck.
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Restrictor Plate Track Fantasy Value – High
When it comes to restrictor plate racing Dale Earnhardt Jr. is always a popular fantasy pick. Are you wondering why his fantasy value isn’t elite? I would simply point you towards Talladega. In the last five races at that venue he was one second place finish but his four other results are all 17th or worse. Last season at Talladega he ran well twice but finished poorly in each event.
At Daytona he’s run better. He finished 14th in July and in February he won his second career Daytona 500. Since 2012 at Daytona he has the 4th best driver rating and a series best 7.0 average finish. The Daytona 500 has been his “sweet spot”. In four of the last five years in that particular race he’s finished in the top 2. His one finish not in the top two over this stretch was during the “tandem drafting” year.
Road Course Track Fantasy Value – High
Last year Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked like a road course ace. He ran strong at both venues scoring the 3rd most points and having a 7.0 average finish. At Sonoma in 2014 he was very competitive and had one of the strongest cars over long runs. When the checkered flag waved he finished 3rd and that marked his first career top ten at that venue. His overall Sonoma average finish is 20.3.
At Watkins Glen last season he finished 11th. The last time he finished better than that at The Glen was in 2005. Between last season and his last top ten he had a 27.5 average finish.
I will note it’s likely I’m overrating his fantasy value on this track type.