Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports

Photo by "Tequila Mike" / Flickr.com

By Jared Wilson
TheRacingExperts.com Reporter

After a few seasons at DEI, Dale Earnhardt Jr. left the operation his dad started in 1980 in 2007 to take on the task of running for Hendrick Motorsports, one of the most prestigious teams in NASCAR. Most thought “Jr.” would succeed in winning the championship in 2008. These people, however, were wrong. Earnhardt headed into the Chase for the Cup 3rd in points with a legit chance to win the Championship. But with crashes and below par performances, Jr. would finish the season with one win, and 12th in points. 2009 is considered to be Jr.’s worst season. With no wins, 25th in points and a limited number of top 5's and 10's, that’s how his season unfolded. 2010 was sub-par—no wins, 21st in points, and still not many top 5's or top 10's.

What happened to this once bright star? Let’s go back to 2004. Earnhardt Jr. had just won his 5th race at Talladega. When he pulled into Victory Lane, he would let one slip of the tongue. "It doesn’t mean s— right now. Daddy’s won here 10 times." He would have assumed the points lead if he wouldn't have cussed on live TV.

After this, Dale never seemed to regain his composure. Or, perhaps, was it at Sonoma a few months earlier in a Corvette? He crashed in a race and his car erupted in flames.

Clear skies, in my opinion, are ahead for this NASCAR icon. Dale Jr. is statistically having his best season since 2004 in 2011. “Little E” is consistently running in the top 10, as he is in Chase contention this year. He is certainly not "Little E" anymore. He is a grown man of 36, looking to rebound from his horrid seasons. Mark Martin put it best, "He is on the road to recovery."

- The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer.