Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s season of unrelenting misery and inexplicable failure came to a merciful close on Sunday at the Ford 400. After starting 32nd and charging into the top 10, he ... well, by now you know what happened next. It's what always happens next. Earnhardt finished 28th. The sport's most snakebit driver paid the price for running the high line, hitting the wall multiple times before eventually pitting with a flat tire. It was his 57th consecutive loss. Earnhardt finished 2009 with two top-fives and five top-10s. (By comparison, Sam "The Human Wrecking Ball" Hornish Jr. had two top-fives and seven top-10s.) Earnhardt closed out the season 25th in the standings, sandwiched between A.J. Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler. For some strange reason, Junior did not want this season to end.
Per Dustin Long: "I want to keep racing because I think we need more racing," Earnhardt said this weekend. "We're not good as a team yet. We need to race more. We don't need to say, 'All right, let's get this year over with and get ready for next year.'"
Sounds to me like 2010 also will be a rebuilding year. That sound you hear is Junior Nation setting itself on fire.