Currently 19th in points, Little E, 34, is in a big funk. He hasn't finished better than eighth and has come in 20th or worse four times. What makes Junior's poor performance even starker is that all of his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports have won a race this year.
So now Junior is at Talladega, the biggest track in NASCAR, his season already on the brink. He had a fast car last Saturday night in Phoenix and led 63 laps. But after Earnhardt lost the lead,
Sunday's race is huge for Earnhardt. Talladega is his best track on the schedule -- he's won five times on the 2.66-mile tri-oval -- and even though he hasn't reached Victory Lane at 'Dega since 2004, he's still widely considered by other drivers to be the top restrictor-plate racer in the sport. Like his father, who turned plate racing into an art form, Little E has an uncanny ability to anticipate the moves of other drivers before they make them.
On Sunday, expect Earnhardt to try to seize the lead early. The best way to avoid getting caught up in the Big One is to be in front of it. He'll draft with his teammates
That is what happened last fall when
There likely will come a moment on Sunday when Little E will need to do what Johnson did last October and navigate through a blur of spinning, out-of-control cars. Luck always plays a big role at Talladega. And if Junior is going to start turning his season around, he'll need some of it on Sunday. I think he gets it done and notches his first win since last June 15.