Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Magical Michigan Moments

By and large, Dale Earnhardt Jr's MIchigan victories resonate with race fans.

By and large, Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Michigan victories resonate with race fans.

Nine years ago, a young lady in her last year of college sat in the hot grandstands of Michigan International Speedway.

Seated at the exit of turn four, these were the greatest seats she bought in the 18 races she attended at this venue. Sitting with her college friend, the two girls snapped photos as the cars whizzed by, making bets about which of their drivers would beat the other. The cheering got louder as the laps counted down from 200.

With under 20 to go, drivers dove into pit road, getting the few seconds of fuel needed for the finish. Of course, as this transpired, a very familiar face would lead the field.

This driver was on a streak! However, this was not the kind a professional NASCAR driver wants to have on their resume.

Instead, this racer entered Michigan with a 76 race winless streak. The higher the number grew, the more it was talked about.

With nine laps remaining to snap the streak, neither the young lady nor her friend had scanners to know just how short Dale Earnhardt Jr. was on fuel. However, they knew he would be on fumes coming to the checkers.

Suddenly, with three laps to go, the No. 77 car of Sam Hornish Jr. slides through the grass at the entrance to pit row, bringing out the caution and sending the race into the NASCAR version of overtime.

In other words, there was one chance at a green, white, checkered finish.

Arguably, this fan was breathless. The nerves and anticipation exuding from the fans surrounding her became nearly palpable.

Dressed from head to toe in green No. 88 Mountain Dew gear, a woman seated a few rows back buried her face in her hands and rocked, seemingly unable to watch the last few moments.

Would he get a good restart? Could he make it on fuel?

At this point, with the field lined up, the pace car dove onto pit road. Meanwhile, the leader took the green as the grandstands erupted! If it were possible to will a driver to a win, the fans at Michigan International Speedway were going to make it happen!

And it did!

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Dale Earnhardt Jr pulled away from the field on the restart, taking the white flag as the caution came out for Patrick Carpentier’s spin. As a result, the only task at hand was for Earnhardt to cross the finish line.

As he came out of turn three, passing by the two girls in turn four, the relief was tactile. He would make it!

When that green No. 88 Chevrolet crossed the stripe, the cheers and screams from every racing fan were enough to make every hair on your body stand at attention.

People were crying, hugging strangers, and high-fiving each other between cheers.

It seems impossible to accurately put into words the emotion that came flooding from the stands that day. Personally, this is still the greatest sports moment of my life.

Michigan brings out the most magical moments for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Michigan brings out the most magical moments for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Consequently, 76 races would end the streak.

In 2012, Michigan would be home to the snapping of another winless streak for Dale Earnhardt Jr. This time, the streak reached 143 races.

In his final year of racing, could Michigan snap another winless season for NASCAR’s most popular driver?

Christina Bowman

Michigan native, fitness enthusiast, lover of bacon and most importantly NASCAR fanatic! My passion for the sport started upon my first visit to Michigan International Speedway at the age of 12 and has not dwindled since that day.

Graduate of Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication; emphasis on Broadcasting/Production.

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