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  Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Owner: Teresa Earnhardt • Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. • Crew Chief: Pete Rondeau

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
2004 Season
Final Points Standing 5th
After First 26 Races 3rd
Earnings $8,913,510
Starts 36
Poles 0
Wins 6
Top 5 16
6-10 5
Laps Led 1,131
Lead Lap Finishes 27
Bonus Points 120
Races Led 19
2004 Performance
Below is the ranking of the team on each type of track along with the driver's best finish.
Track Type Ranking
Flat Tracks 14th
Best Finish 1st, Phoenix
Intermediate Tracks 7th
Best Finish 1st, Atlanta
Plate Tracks 1st
Best Finish 1st, Daytona, Talladega
Road Courses 5th
Best Finish 5th, Watkins Glen
Short Tracks 1st
Best Finish 1st, Bristol, Richmond
2005 Spin
After the season Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser team enjoyed in 2004, they seem a natural choice as a top three team in ‘05. But we had to slide them down a notch after the offseason shakeup at DEI. For any other team, the crew swap would set them back considerably, but Junior’s raw talent will trump all the negatives.

Junior’s greatest asset to the team may be his versatility. He was one of only four drivers who had a top 5 finish on each of the five different types of tracks. More impressive, he won on every type of track, save the road courses. However, the organization as a whole may ultimately be what keeps Junior from a championship this season. The DEI organization and Junior do not see eye-to-eye on all matters. Still, Junior, Ritchie Gilmore and the Eurys have overcome the internal strife to keep the ship pointed in the right direction once the team arrives at the track.

Now that Earnhardt and Michael Waltrip must start from scratch, the chemistry within both teams must develop. If the NAPA bunch does not pull its weight and said chemistry within the Bud crew does not take hold, this switch could be No. 1 on our ‘Bonehead Moves of the Year’ list next season.

2004 Recap
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Bud guys had a season that fell just a few pull tabs short of a championship. Burns suffered by Junior in a non-Cup crash hindered the team’s performance through late July and early August. However, the recovery process did not take Earnhardt out of the Chase. Strong leadership kept the injury from ruining the season, which is a credit to this bunch.

Strong runs at each type of track kept the team in the title hunt throughout the year. Wins at Phoenix, Atlanta, Daytona, Talladega, Bristol and Richmond proved that the team could adapt to any type of track and be a contender on any given weekend.

The team did encounter major problems during the last five races of the season. Although they won at Phoenix, poor showings at Martinsville, Atlanta, Darlington and Homestead ultimately cost them a championship.

The Good: The Kansas race may have been the most significant race of the final 10 for Junior. After failing to find much success on the cookie cutter tracks, the team tested here and finished ninth. This was Earnhardt’s clutch performance of the year.

The Bad: The Las Vegas and two California races were miserable for the Budweiser team. Earnhardt never could adjust the car to his liking, as the results showed.

The Ugly: It was not the slip of the tongue at Talladega — rather, it was the mental mistake at Atlanta. With a top 5 run going late into the event, Junior crashed the car and finished 33rd, costing the team about 100 points.

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