Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Does Dale Jr. Compare To "The Intimidator"?

With his 30th place finish at the Chevy Rock & Roll 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was officially dropped out of contention for the "Chase For The Championship". It marks the second time in three years that Dale Jr. won't make the cut for the 10-race playoff. It's also fueled some criticism of the driver, and questions as to why he hasn't been able to win a race the entire season while his father was able to amass seven championships over his career. But how much more success did Earnhardt Sr. have at the same stage in his racing career as Dale Jr. is at now?
Obviously NASCAR had changed quite a bit in the 24 years between when Earnhardt Sr. started in '75 and Dale Jr. joined the ranks in '99. However, it's still about having a fast car, getting around the track and pulling off quick pit stops. In that sense, things are pretty much the same.

In putting this comparison together, I realized there were a few different ways it could be done. I could take numbers strictly from between the ages of 24-31 for both drivers, or I could throw out Earnhardt Sr.'s first 3 years when he didn't race much and start counting his stats at age 27 when he participated in the same amount of races as Dale Jr. did at age 24(5 races). I ultimately decided to use the stats from when they both started at age 24, and compile a winning percentage. Here is what I found:

Dale Earnhardt Sr.(between the ages of 24-31): 128 races, 7 wins, 5 poles, 47 top fives. Won roughly 5% of his races, placed top 5 in roughly 36%.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.(between the ages of 24-31): 255 races, 17 wins, 6 poles, 69 top fives. Won roughly 6% of his races, placed top 5 in roughly 27%.

As you can see, at roughly the same stage both Dale Jr. and his dad put together similar statistics. Though Earnhardt Sr. did win his first championship at age 29, whereas Dale Jr. is still searching for his first.

All in all, Dale Jr. isn't too far off of the pace of his father, and his contentious relationship with his stepmother has to have been a burden on him over the past few seasons. It will be interesting to see how he performs with his new team. Rebounding all the way back to winning a championship next season would be an ideal way to shut up his critics, and draw more favorable comparisons to "The Intimidator" and his seven titles.

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