The drought is over as Earnhardt wins- NASCAR Notes by Lugnut - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

NASCAR NOTES: The drought is over as Earnhardt wins

Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy" Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy"
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton /Getty Images Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton /Getty Images

BROOKLYN, MI (RNN) -  When your father was a NASCAR icon and the holder of seven Cup Series championships, the best Father's Day gift a son could give is a race victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. did just that and ended his 143-race winless streak with a victory in Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Earnhardt admitted that he hadn't thought much about race day being Father's Day until after the race was over. As he reflected on that, he said that made winning a little special for him.

"I'm happy for that fact due to the circumstances," said Earnhardt. "It makes it mean a little bit more to have won on Father's Day."

Earnhardt has been close to winning several times this season but couldn't seem to close the deal. The strain of being so close appeared to be weighing heavily on the team and driver. But Earnhardt's crew chief Steve Letarte knew it would only be a matter of time before they made a visit to victory lane.

"I'm a true believer in statistics, and I don't think it's luck," said Letarte. "I think you make your own luck. You get bad breaks along the way, but if you have a strong enough race team, and strong enough cars, then even the bad luck can't hold you down forever, and I think this year, we have earned this win."

Earnhardt's popularity with the fans is well documented. But his respect in the garage area is something that not many speak about. That respect was on display Sunday as drivers and crew members of competitive teams made their way to pit road to give a celebratory high five to the young man as he made his way to victory lane.

"I guess it means I'm an all-right dude," said Earnhardt when asked about the scene on pit road. "When people are happy for you, they want to see you do good. That's the way I feel about people; I want to see good people do good things, and I want to see people that I think are good people have success and be happy."

The win puts Junior solidly in second place in NASCAR's point standings and only four points out of the lead. The victory also gives him a valuable bonus point to carry into the postseason. Many agree that his team is a serious contender for the 2012 championship.

"I think they are definitely a contender," said Matt Kenseth about Earnhardt's postseason chances. "I think they have been right up there in the mix each and every race, no matter, you know, what size or shape of racetrack, so I definitely think they are at this point in the season one of the favorites."

Of course, there are some that don't share the excitement of seeing Earnhardt back in the winner's circle - such as defending champion Tony Stewart.

"It's no different to anybody else that does it. It's not a national holiday, guys," said Stewart regarding the buzz about Earnhardt's victory. "This morning, they were celebrating his fourth anniversary of his last win, so I guess we are all in a state of mourning now because he's broke that streak now, so I don't know what we are all supposed to think."

Whether you are a Junior fan or not, you had to smile when you saw the No. 88 cross the finish line as the race winner. Since his father's death in the 2000 Daytona 500, Dale Jr. has been trying to rekindle that winning spirit that he had while driving for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. It seems that his relationship with Rick Hendrick Motorsports and Steve Letarte just might be the right combination to help him get there.

However, on Father's Day, I couldn't help but think that he had a little help from above from a proud father.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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