2014 Season Review:
No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. turns laps at Phoenix International Raceway in November.
In a season featuring four wins, 2014 can be viewed as a comeback season for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
With a win in the season-opening Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most popular driver became the first driver to all-but guarantee a Chase berth in NASCAR’s new post-season format.
Earnhardt Jr. began the season with a win and two runner-up finishes in the season’s first three races. The 40-year-old driver led the point standings throughout the regular season, sweeping both events at Pocono Raceway.
Three total wins in the regular season seeded Earnhardt Jr. second entering the Chase.
“Well, we’ve been sort of on a vacation for 20 weeks, it's time to get to it,” Earnhardt Jr. said at Richmond in September prior to the beginning of the Chase. “I'm kind of looking forward to sitting down with Steve, our engineers, getting in the office, sort of listening to how we want to prepare, what our goals are, what their vision is, just for the individual race, the first race, Chicago.”
Earnhardt Jr. advanced past the first round of the playoffs, but troubles while leading at Kansas Speedway in October eluded Earnhardt Jr. from advancing to the Eliminator Round.
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Dale Earnhardt Jr.
While the win could not help him in the championship, an eliminated Earnhardt Jr. won at Martinsville Speedway in October, leading 79 laps en route to his first victory at the racetrack.
“With the way this thing is structured, it's sort of structured to balance the playing field a little more and really give everybody a little bit more guesswork on who these guys are going to be that get eliminated and who are the guys that are going to keep moving forward,” Earnhardt Jr. said on the Chase format. “It's going to be tough. You're going to have to put together some damn good races.”
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. poses with his Daytona 500 trophy in victory lane.
Earnhardt Jr. will have to wait at least one more season to capture his first Sprint Cup title, but, 2014 will be marked as one of his best seasons to date statistically.
Earnhardt Jr. won four times in a span of 33 races in 2014. Before his victory in the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Jr. had won his previous four victories in a span of 326 races.
With 12 top-five finishes in 2014, the mark made last season Earnhardt Jr.’s third consecutive season with double-digit top-five finishes. The 12 top-five’s were the most he had scored since the 2004 season.
Leading 396 laps in 2014, Earnhardt Jr. led the most laps since his 2008 season.