Sunday morning there was a buzz in the garage with a bent decidedly leaning toward Dale Earnhardt Jr.
OK, from about the moment the transporters rolled into the garage, talk of the four-year anniversary of NASCAR's Most Popular Driver permeated conversations and lines of questioning of other competitors. This was nothing new at Michigan International Speedway, or a lot of other places where Junior had excelled in the past, such as restrictor-plate or short tracks.
But as the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team picked up steam this season -- and one top 10 after another -- it became clear that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a weekly contender at Daytona International Speedway and even Dover International Speedway.
While the Junior Express storyline at Michigan International Speedway was sidetracked by 200-plus-mph speeds, a new tire compound and a cameo by Bad Kurt Busch over the weekend, once race-day morning arrived and a couple of engines were changed, the black No. 88 Chevrolet became th...