Juuuuuunnnior!

After four years and 143 races, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s winning drought is over. It ended at the same track where he got his last win, in June of 2008: Michigan International Speedway. Once the rains cleared in Brooklyn, MI, Junior roared out to lead 95 of 200 laps and ran away from Tony Stewart and the rest of the field on the way to a comfortable victory, with speeds topping out at 212 mph along the long straightaway.

The 88 team has been having a good year. After 15 races, they have 11 top ten finishes, 8 of which were top fives, one of which was yesterday’s victory. This win has been a long time coming not only because it has been a long time since Junior’s won, but because he’s run pretty solidly during those four years, and particularly last year and this year, and he seems to have encountered more than his fair share of bad luck. The stretch, while probably longer than anyone would’ve liked it to be, did give Earnhardt the opportunity to show his critics that wasn’t going to lose due to being immature or a bad teammate. It’s been a long time since anybody could legitimately accuse him of being either. (And the persistent immaturity of the Busch brothers certainly provides a helpful foil.)

In the end, though, I feel pretty good saying that the reason Earnhardt Jr. finally broke through and made it back to victory lane was due to the black paint scheme on his Chevrolet yesterday.

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