Jun 11, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT
A year ago in the Irish Hills of Michigan, “Junior Nation” erupted as their man got the monkey off his back.
It’s amazing how fast time flies, because another year has already passed since Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last win at Michigan International Speedway.
That win snapped a 143-race winless drought, dating back to, you guessed it, Michigan once again. That win in June 2008 broke a 76-race winless stretch.
It’s been a consistent season for Earnhardt, who has four top-fives and nine top-10 finishes in 14 races thus far. He currently stands fourth in the standings after one of his best races of the season, this past weekend at Pocono.
Earnhardt is one of four drivers currently in the top 10 without a win. While it certainly isn’t a guarantee that a win will secure a spot in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, a win would go a long way towards solidifying his place. He has a 59-point gap ahead of 10th place.
If the on-track performance hasn’t been an issue this year, one lingering cloud over his and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team’s head is a yet-unfulfilled sponsorship roster for the rest of the season. It currently has support from the National Guard and Diet Mountain Dew.
It seems hard to fathom that NASCAR’s longtime Most Popular Driver would have races to sell, but according to the Charlotte Observer, there are still 13 unsold races. Per Rick Hendrick’s comments to the Observer, those races are close to being filled in.
“I’ve not been worried about it because we could sell it if we wanted to piecemeal it. We’ve been looking for the future,” Hendrick told the Charlotte Observer. “We don’t want to get into (sponsor relationships) where you see somebody one time and you don’t seem them anymore after that.”
At Michigan this week, Dale Jr. will run the National Guard “Man of Steel” colors.