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H2H: When will Earnhardt return to Victory Lane?

June 18, 2012, ,

It took four years and two days to end Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 143-race winless streak, but it took fewer than 24 hours for the insatiable among us to start wondering when the next victory will arrive.

Where will Dale Earnhardt Jr. claim his next victory?


The first win is often the hardest. Ending a 143-race winless streak while everyone's eyes were on him will relieve pressure Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't even know he was feeling.

So from here on out, things will get easier. They've been knocking on the door all year and now the floodgates are open.

I'm going on record here: Junior will be in Victory Lane. And when have I ever lied to you?

Have you already forgotten the Daytona 500? I haven't, and I guarantee you Junior hasn't. With a little help on the final restart, he wouldn't have needed to attach to Greg Biffle's bumper and push him all the way through the final corner before making his move.

In fact, Earnhardt has finished second in two of the past five Daytona races, and fourth in another. He doesn't have the recent consistency there that he showed in DEI's plate-racing dominance era, but he has a better team now than he did then. This team is stronger, week in and week out, than any he has had.

So even though recent history would not support it -- and by recent I mean the past four years -- Junior doesn't need Michigan to win. He just needs a car, some fuel, and Steve Letarte. He'll have all that, plus history, plus a much stronger belief in himself than he's had before. It won't take until August for Junior's next win; it will only take until July 7.

Jill Erwin, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

As consistently well as he's run this season, it's foolish to think that Sunday's streak-busting win in the Irish Hills will be the only victory Dale Earnhardt Jr. records this season. The dam has been broken down -- prepare for a potential flood.

And as natural as it is this to think the next one may come in two weeks at Daytona, the capricious nature of that plate track just leaves too much to chance.

No, the next one comes where the last one (actually, the last two) have been, back at Michigan International Speedway. It just makes too much sense given the way Earnhardt dominated the entire Sunday, given that the track was essentially a new one after the repave and last-minute tire change, given that everyone's notes for the Aug. 19 event will come solely off this past weekend. Junior and crew chief Steve Letarte literally wrote the book on Michigan with a dominating performance that will give them an ahead-of-the-game baseline when the series returns there.

Could he win at Daytona? Sure. But there's something to season sweeps, as history tells us. We see it time and time again, as a strong effort one weekend leads to another one the next time. Oh, and given how solid he was on short tracks earlier in the season, watch him back it up at Bristol Motor Speedway the next weekend.

That's right, Junior Nation: In August, your driver starts another kind of streak by winning two in a row.

David Caraviello, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Jill Erwin and David Caraviello have their own opinions of when you can bank on Junior's return to Victory Lane, and neither of them think it will be too far in the future. Read their picks and weigh in with your own in the comments below. Don't forget to vote in the poll to the right.