By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
I know it is nothing spectacular. I know it isn’t anything amazing. However what we have seen for the no. 88 Chevrolet this season is progress. Now I know what you are saying… Am I nuts? Earnhardt sits 15th in the driver points standings after three events this season, and in a car he is expected to compete for championships no less.
So how is this progress?
Simple, last season at this time Earnhardt was hanging out 29th in the point standings… Have we somehow forgotten that? How have we completely erased how abysmal last season was for Earnhardt?
At no point last season did it look like Dale Jr. was competitive. You could even see it in his eyes when he would be interviewed. Earnhardt was visibly shaken emotionally and physically by the struggles that came his way in 2009.
Let me put this in perspective. The highest Earnhardt got up to in the point standings last season at any point was 15th… that means after the Daytona 500 this year he had reached a ranking higher in the points than he had been in all of last season. Not only that, but after three races this year he still has matched his best ranking spot from all of last season.
Oh and Earnhardt finished second in dramatic fashion in the Daytona 500, which equals his season best finish of second in last years Aaron’s 499 at Talladega. If not for a broken axle at California, we’d most likely be looking at that no. 88 in the top-12 in the point standings right now. You can’t argue that what we are seeing is not “actual” progress. Sure I know he hasn’t won in 60 races, and he hasn’t set the world on fire with incredible consistency, but the fact of the matter is that Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 2010 season is already much better than 2009 was… and we are only three races in.