Another year, another Chase for the Sprint Cup without NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior Nation, we understand your pain and know his lack of results have you wondering if you should pay attention to the rest of the season. Don't give up! Jorge A. Mondaca has a few drivers worthy of your love.
OK, we get it. You're a fan of Dale Jr., but you want to feel what it's like to be on the winning team again. So how about switching your allegiance to another Hendrick driver — Jimmie Johnson? Sure, it's jumping on the bandwagon late, but you've never been one to shy away from popular drivers. And don't forget about Denny Hamlin, who is picking up steam again after his win last weekend at Richmond, and dark-horse favorite Carl Edwards, who has no Cup wins this season but has improved his performance by leaps and bounds in recent weeks (and perhaps is peaking at the right time).
Yes, we know it sounds crazy for fans who love the Earnhardts, especially Dale Sr., to cheer for Wonder Boy. But Jeff and Dale Sr. share a traditional line to the golden '90s era of NASCAR, back before soccer moms started putting Junior decals on their minivans (no offense to any soccer moms reading this). An alternative? Former championship leader and the man who picked up the torch for Earnhardt: Kevin Harvick.
Ugh. Why does everyone have to like EVERY driver you do? Sure, you love being a part of Junior Nation, but even you need to get away from the crowd sometimes. So start rooting for Greg Biffle. He enters the Chase with little fanfare and even less expectations, but he's shown in the past he can string together a pair of wins and become a title contender. And don't forget about Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton – they're in the background, but they are more than capable of getting the results and the big trophy.
Like Dale Jr. because he's a self-starter, small business owner? Then Tony Stewart is your new guy. Smoke and Dale Jr. are both team owners (Stewart-Haas Racing, JR Motorsports), both drive Chevrolets, both have plenty of business interests and both are usually drafting partners whenever the monster restrictor-plate tracks appear. But unlike Dale Jr., Stewart has also been in championship contention every year (only finished outside the top 10 once in his career) and has won at least once every season since 1999.
Remember when Rowdy spun NASCAR's "Franchise" battling for the win at Richmond in 2008? Yeah, forget about that. Junior's biggest rival from last year continues to be a star, and he's just as much of a bad boy today as he was then. Don't want to do a full 180-degree switch? His brother Kurt wouldn’t mind having you on his team.