The Frontstretch: Is Martin Truex Jr. Better Than Dale Earnhardt Jr.? by Mike Neff -- Friday April 14, 2006

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Is Martin Truex Jr. Better Than Dale Earnhardt Jr.?

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Friday April 14, 2006


After Martin Truex Jr. crossed the line for the victory in last season’s IROC finale, a question came to mind: Is Martin Truex Jr. a better driver than Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Watching Truex notch another top five finish in the IROC series this past weekend, the question struck me again. This is probably blasphemy to Junior Nation, but let’s look at the numbers.

We can’t really compare Nextel Cup numbers, since Truex has only competed in a handful of races. So let’s look at where they have competed on a similar stage. Truex and Junior both have run two full Busch seasons, and won the series championship in both their seasons. If you compare those full season years, Junior had 13 wins to Truex’s 12. Not only that, but Earnhardt, Jr. got his wins over a slightly shorter schedule of races, 63 vs. 69.

However, a closer look at those Busch Series races reveals Earnhardt, Jr. did not face nearly as many Buschwhackers as Truex, Jr. has. Against like competition in two full seasons in Busch, Junior was the highest finishing non-Buschwhacker 19 times, while Truex was the highest 21 times with several more Cup drivers to contend with. Truex also had two more Top 10s and four more poles over his Busch Series career, with an average starting position 4.3 positions higher than what Junior had. Truex’s average finish was also slightly higher than Junior’s by .95. He also was racing at the finish ten more times than Junior, a sign of slightly better consistency.

The true indicator, though, is more likely looking at the IROC series, which is supposed to be all about driver ability. Truex has a win in his one and a half years of competition, while Junior’s best finish in two years was a second. Truex has four more Top 5s in two fewer races. Truex finished second in the standings last year, while Earnhardt Jr.’s best point finish was ninth. Truex has led 51 laps, to only 15 laps led in two seasons for Earnhardt, Jr. Truex also has six Top 10s, compared to five for Junior.

When you look at things that way, it appears that Truex is a better driver than Junior, at least from a statistical perspective. Of course, when it comes to D.E.I, Junior will always be the poster child. He crushes the competition in souvenir sales. He is the most popular driver in the sport according to the fans. The combination of Junior and Tony Eury, Jr. is a definite threat for the Cup for the foreseeable future. But Truex appears to have the talent, too. As long as he and Bono Manion can have similar chemistry to the #8 bunch, they will be a serious threat for the Cup in the not too distant future. Next on the list to accomplish, for now, is Nextel Cup Rookie of the Year, something Earnhardt, Jr. was not able to win in his rookie season back in 2000. This year’s crop of rookies is certainly going to result in a very heated battle for the award. However, if Truex can continue his impressive runs, the trophy is within his reach.

As far as making headway with the fans, Truex seems to immediately become a fan favorite if for nothing more than his association with Junior and DEI. Growing up in New Jersey and racing in the Busch North series, he already brings with him a strong fan base from the Northeast, and it won’t surprise anyone if he become one of the top three most popular drivers within the next two years. It will be interesting to see how Junior handles the pressure if his running mate becomes ten times more popular than his former teammates, Michael Waltrip and Steve Park, ever were.

Yes, it is still early in Martin Truex, Jr.’s career, but we could be witnessing the initial stages of the next great NASCAR driver.

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M. B. Voelker
04/14/2006 06:25 AM

I think that Jr. himself is capable of being proud when his protege starts outperforming him. But DEI seems likely to have severe institutional problems with the concept.

04/14/2006 12:36 PM

Comparing drivers based on IROC results? That’s like comparing A-Rod and Bobby Abreu based on the Home Run Contest.

04/14/2006 12:41 PM

Lets see, was Truex’s dad an icon of the sport,has he had as much pressure put on him,has he had to deal with the death of his dad (the icon)in front of the world, is his boss his stepmother? Give Junior another year and then if you want to compare have at it. Just remember, Junior has more emotional ties with DEI than anyother driver there and things have not been the best at that company.

was nascar fan
04/14/2006 02:03 PM

Is an Oak tree better than a Hickory tree?

04/14/2006 02:52 PM

to Mike… driver ability knows nothing about name sakes.. and who’s dad was an icon. The article comments on ability.. face it.. Jr is not the ONLY be all and end all in the sport…there are others who are just as good.. and will be better… and you have to accept that.. even tho they’re not Earnhardts…

04/14/2006 03:36 PM

Look at the IROC fields when Dale Jr. was in it, compared to now. There is no comparison. The fields now are not as competitive from top to bottom

04/14/2006 05:15 PM

I would have to say on true driving skill, hands down, Tony Stewart is the very best in the sport of nascar!! So whom is the better JR? Its not relavent until they are more than “logging laps”!

04/14/2006 05:38 PM

Another year??? Holy cow HB! Who cares about what happened over five years ago! You mean that Dale Jr is so distraught over his Father’s death FIVE YEARS AGO that he can’t perform at a level equivilent to a talented rookie driver? AND another year is going to help?

Man, that’s some kind of enabling there. LOL

Another year… You’re from Chicago aren’t you?

Oh yeah! AND He’s working for his Step-mother. That’s another great reason for failure.

If you can’t overcome personal problems at that level, there’s no reason to be at that level.

Jr needs to dump all the family ties there and get professionals in his corner. He needs a quality crew, not more friends.

AJ Lewis
04/14/2006 10:41 PM

There’s no doubt Dale Jr is a competent driver, but he’s not as intelligent as Truex Jr. Truex Jr seems to be a more rounded driver; let’s face it – Little E is hopeless around road courses and he if he last name wasn’t Earnhardt, he wouldn’t have got the opportunity to become the massive merchandise entity he is. He’s one of those drivers who has been in the best equipment his whole career and hasn’t had to worry about money. Truex Jr has had a much more difficult ride into the top stockcar division. Yes Dale Jr has won the biggest race of all, and DEI is a fantastic race team, but they’re never going to drop him from their driver line-up. The only pressure Dale feels is the pressure he places on himself, and without any pressure to retain his position in the team, I think it makes him less-hungry a driver than Truex Jr.

jim cunningham
04/15/2006 12:00 AM

two different drivers with two driving styles. jr drives, and martin thinks first then drives.

Charlie D.
04/15/2006 05:38 AM

Statistics are for loosers…

04/16/2006 02:57 PM

I think that both drivers are good. But Truex, Jr is just a little bit better, and Dale Jr is also.

04/16/2006 05:35 PM

Well, you have said a mouthful. What I notice is that Martin Truex Jr is able to analyze the track and make good chassis setups. YEah I am sure there is some jealous of course Dale JR is human. Is that going to derail the friendship I dont see that happening. Truex Jr is not a ham like Mikey. Personally I feel that the more successful Dale Jr became the more it put a wage between Michael Waltrip and Dale JR. Many blame Dale Jr and not getting great equipment he got that and didnt do a thing with it.

Dale Jr has acknowledged Martins strengths and passion.

When Dale Jr is patient and works on the issues and keeps calm he gets great finishes and wins. That is his weakness in the past not to give up and getting great finishes when they missed the setup.

I feel this year they have turned a corner. I guess it was a maturity issue.

Seems like everyone has run off every teammate he has by getting in there ear about not getting great equipment. But it comes down to performance plain and simple.

Why would DEI shoot themselves in the foot they believe in Martin. He is certainly the best teammate he ever had.

If it wasnt for Truex Jr testing for Jr in 2004 he helped with many a setup. I dont see Dale Jr causing and issue he is a help to DEI. Martin brings in sponsor dollars to help support his own program. So there is no issue.

04/16/2006 06:29 PM

I think Truex could be a better racer in the future but no racer has the great attitude that Jr. has, it’s just so different from any of the others any time you hear him talking. Seems like his laid back approach to each race getting the car better each lap will get him the wins in the end.

04/16/2006 07:05 PM

Blah blah blah…can’t you find some other way to get hits for your site??? Pathetic….

04/16/2006 10:40 PM

What makes a driver in Nascar is more than car control. Patience, Team and Equipment, Luck, Chemistry. Just because Tony Stewart has great Car Control doesn’t mean he wins every week. If this were the case Robby Gordon and Jeff Gordon would be in the front every weekend. I don’t really know how good Dale Jr. is even though I am a huge fan. I am a fan of Martin as well but to say one is better than the other doesn’t really matter. There are too many variables in that equation. I like them both. I do believe that at Daytona and Talladega, Dale Jr. makes moves that are amazing. Dale impresses me on the short tracks. Martin reminds me of a Mark Martin type driver. Saving his stuff and being there at the end. I think after working his way from rear to front several times this year that Dale believes in his team a little more. Maybe it will come together for the 8 team soon. I just believe that when they get their mile and a half program up to par, DEI will be as tough as Rousch and Hendrick. I wish it would happen sooner. They seem to have had a terrible time since Nascar shortened the spoilers. When either of the Jr’s have good cars they can drive the wheels off them. Maybe the car of tommorow will help the situation. Either way we will be rooting for Dale and Martin no matter where they finish.

Rajeev Jaswal
04/17/2006 08:36 AM

Jr. nation strikes back. It’s amazing to see how one can evoke a massive response by writing something about Jr. that contradicts his followers belief. This indeed shows that NASCAR fans are so loyal. Jr. is a talented driver but everyone knows that the Earnhardt last name gave him an istant path to fame and stardom. He is great on restrictor plate race tracks but lacks the depth on intermediate tracks. Jr. is still rough around the edges and has a lot of work to do before being counted in the same breath as former greats.
Martin Truex is still in his early stages of Nextel Cup career and has a lot to prove. He has done great in Busch series but that doesn’t quantify to success in Nextel cup.

Chris: FYI..As for Tony Stewart, he has much more than tremendous car control. He is the most versatile driver in the sport. You name a track and he’ll be competitive there. He has the most diverse racing background and championships in various forms of racing. He is a drivers driver with true passion for the sport. He has so much fire inside him even after winning two championships.

04/17/2006 07:19 PM

first off i’m a jr. fan and the other jr. as well. DEI will get there program turned around by the half way mark and as far as who’s better only time will tell. But i think you need to look at Menard in as well one race one top ten. not counting daytona attempt. I think he is a laid back driver doesn’t push issues and saves his stuff to the end and also brings his daddy’s money. You can say that he isn’t good in the BUSCH series but was Jeff Gordan, was Tony Stewert, was Jimmie Johnson. I think the whole thing is to much time in the Busch series can hurt a driver in the cup series. So Dale Jr is better now but he has two great drivers in his shadows at DEI just watch Menard Next year. just wait every organization has its run at the top. Next year DEI will be there to pick up ROUSH’s and HENDRICK’s pieces.

04/21/2006 12:35 PM

I respect Stewart and Gordon and all the greats but if you put them in a bad car then they wont have the finishes. Let Tony drive Jeff Gordon’s car at Fontana. Tony wasnt looking so hot a few years ago. Tony is doing so well lately because he is driving good equipment. I know he can probably get more out of a ill handling car but it takes more than a great driver to win championships at this level. And in my opinion it doesnt matter how any of these drivers got to the Nextel Cup level. Whether born into it like Jr, Kyle Petty, Casey Mears, etc.. or the Carl Edward, Kasey Kahne type drivers that raced there way to this level. You still have to perform at this level to make it. And to say Jr. had better equipment is outrageous. Compared to Hendrick and Rousch.(Right) In my opinion most of Jr.’s fans hope he finishes well but like him as a person more than a driver . I don’t think too many people like Tony’s personality more than his driving skills. To win one race a year in Nascar is an accomplishment for a lot of teams. For people to expect you to win 10 and the Championship is a feat even for the Great Tony Stewart.


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