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Earnhardt Jr. fans hoping his next win will come soon

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans continue to wait and wonder. When will Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak end, and will NASCAR's most popular driver make it into the championship chase this season after missing it last year?

When Earnhardt Jr. left Dale Earnhardt Inc. and joined the mighty Hendrick Motorsports for the start of the 2008 season, Junior Nation -- his loyal fan base -- was revitalized, and expectations were high that he would return to his winning ways.

It hasn't happened so far...and may never.

Consider the facts. Earnhardt Jr. has notched only one win with Hendrick to date. He finished a dismal 25th in points last year. Earnhardt Jr. made the chase in '08, but finished last in the 12-driver playoff field.

There has been some turnaround with Earnhardt Jr.'s team this year, but not enough to make him a serious title contender yet. Earnhardt Jr. had been hanging out in the top-12 in points for most of the early season, but after a 32nd-place finish last Saturday at Richmond, he plummeted to 13th in the standings.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. winless streak stands at 67 races.
As for his winless streak, it now stands at 67 races. Prior to June 2008 at Michigan, he had gone 76 races without a win.

It's been almost one year since Lance McGrew replaced Tony Eury Jr. as crew chief for Earnhardt Jr's No.88 Chevrolet. Team owner Rick Hendrick said at the end of last season that he would make it a top priority to revamp Earnhardt Jr.'s team, but Hendrick lately has been distracted with settling some issues between teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

When Earnhardt Jr. wins again, there certainly will be more to talk about than his recent tabloid news and departure from Hendrick rumors.

Last week, he denied any truth to a National Enquirer story that he was responsible for breaking up the marriage between his current girlfriend, Amy Reimann, and her now ex-husband, Tommy Cook, an assistant defensive line coach at the University of Kentucky.

Earnhardt Jr. also put rumors to rest that he would depart HMS and elevate his JR Motorsports team from Nationwide to Sprint Cup, as early as next year.

"I like working with Rick," said Earnhardt Jr., whose contract with Hendrick runs through the 2012 season. "I am going to stick there, stick around as long as I can. I want to stay with Rick as long as he will keep me."

Earnhardt Jr. and his fans are hopeful the glory days will be back again soon.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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