no avatar

Would Earnhardt Jr.'s return to form rev NASCAR's fortunes?

Nate Ryan • Feb 10, 2010 at 12:00 AM

USA Today is reporting that the most popular driver seven years running in the Sprint Cup Series hasn't won a race or pole position in nearly two years. Last season, he was 25th in points with two top-five finishes and three top-10s, all career worsts. Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. need to perform well to be the face of NASCAR?

"Apparently not," Earnhardt deadpanned. The answer drew guffaws from a throng around him on Daytona 500 media day last week. But 2010 could be a watershed — or washout — season for the son of a seven-time champion whose iconic personality (and 2001 death during its marquee event) helped NASCAR mushroom from regional to mainstream in the 1990s.

After four consecutive seasons of sagging TV ratings and flat or declining attendance at nearly every track, many are pointing to a breakout year by Earnhardt as a panacea. NASCAR chairman Brian France says Earnhardt is "like the Lakers or Celtics. He is the major franchise, and if he returns … to that high level, it'll help."

Read the full report at the USA Today Web site.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos