Blog: "When will Junior win?

353 views

Steve Kim

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak currently stands at 132 races. This isn't a record. Michael Waltrip is the record holder with 462 consecutive losses. But for Junior, whose expectations were high given the successes early in his career, times have been lean.

He can't blame the lack of wins on the team (and he hasn't). Since Junior moved to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, replacing Kyle Busch, he has won just one race. (He had won 17 races prior to this move.) This compares poorly to his Hendrick teammates: 22 wins for Jimmie Johnson and four for Jeff Gordon. Busch has won 19 races during that span.

The last race that Junior won was on June 15, 2008 in Michigan (Life Lock 400). Even before then, his decline was noticeable. After his strongest year in 2004 when he won six races, he has had four winless seasons out of seven. He hasn't won more than one race in any season since 2005. He was especially underwhelming in 2009 and 2010 when he ranked 25th and 21st respectively. He has since improved, ranking 7th in points last year and 4th so far this year. But wins are still not coming.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

So why is he not winning races?

One thing that I could pinpoint is Tony Eury Sr. leaving Junior's crew chief spot to become the team manager of Dale Earnhardt Inc. after 2004. Junior hasn't found success with any other crew chief since then.

The other is just the cycle of diminishing confidence set in by a string of losses. "Once you get out of that winning mode and you try to force things, you start screwing more up than you help," according to Kevin Harvick. I think Junior is at that point of frustration where he is forcing things, trying to take matters into his own hands.

When will he win?

Before going into when he will win, let's work through some probabilities.

The average probability of winning a race is 2.3% (1 divided by 43). The better drivers' chances are definitely higher than 2.3%, and this happens at the expense of the rest of the field. I doubt probability should be anything over 7% to 8% for any racer for a single race. What follows is that average losing probability is 97.7% (1 minus 2.3%). This is an overwhelming loss rate, and as a result, extended winless streaks are prevalent in NASCAR.

Now, let's assume that Junior's winning chances are average (2.3%). Based on that assumption, the probability of losing 132 consecutive races is 4.5%. It is definitely a low probability outcome, yet more likely than winning a single race.

Given the probabilities, Junior's chance of winning at Bristol is low. Even if his win rate is twice the average of the field, we are talking less than 5 percent. So over 95% likelihood of loss.

It's easier to think about a bunch of races. If we again attribute 2.3% win rate for Junior, he should have 54% chance of winning a race before the season's over. There is 80% chance of winning a race before the end of 2013 season and 91% chance before the end of 2014 season. If we assume that his win rate is 3.5% rather than 2.3%, then his chances of winning a race this year rises to 69%. Moreover, his chances of winning before 2013 year end is then 91% and before 2014 year end is 97.6%

So the answer is yes, he should win a race. In fact, I think he should win multiple races before his career is over. His chances of winning a race this year is about a coin flip or higher. His been running well so far -- second at Daytona and he raced well in Vegas -- so it is likely that he should be in the winner circle sooner than later.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt, featured, steve kim