Updated: June 18, 2012, 8:21 PM ET

What's good for Dale Jr. is good for NASCAR

Blount By Terry Blount

Dale Earnhardt Jr.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesIt had been four long years since Dale Earnhardt Jr. smoked the Goodyears after a points race, so he made the most of it Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

This just in: NASCAR now will run six races a year at Michigan International Speedway.

OK, I'm pulling your throttle leg a little on that one, but one could understand the desire for it. If Dale Earnhardt Jr. has an on-track happy place, Michigan is it.

He has two Sprint Cup victories since winning at Richmond in 2006, and both came on the 2-mile oval in the Irish Hills, including the one Sunday that ended his 143-race winless streak.

The endless questions of "Will Junior win again?" now are over, at least for a few weeks. More importantly, what's good for Dale Jr. is good for NASCAR.

Even through his long losing streak, Earnhardt continued to be the most popular driver in the sport by a wide margin. He has his critics, but Earnhardt is well-liked by the majority of fans and the majority of people in the Cup garage. They want him to do well.

"That's the way I feel about people," Earnhardt said Sunday after his victory. "I want to see good people do good things, and I want to see people who I think are good people have success and be happy."

Some of the first people to greet Earnhardt on pit road after the win were Jimmie Johnson's pit crew, including crew chief Chad Knaus, who reached into the car to shake Earnhardt's hand. Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevy team works in the same building at Johnson's No. 48 crew.

Greg Biffle, who ended his 49-race winless streak earlier this season at Texas, expressed how many drivers felt about watching Earnhardt go to Victory Lane on Father's Day.

"I am really excited for Junior," Biffle said. "What a great day for him to win on. There has been a lot of pressure on him and I am glad he won."

Finally winning is the icing on the cake this season for Earnhardt. He has been a contending driver all season, easily his best year since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

He's only four points behind Matt Kenseth for the top spot in the standings. Earnhardt also has a series-best 12 top-10s in 15 races. If the Chase started today, Earnhardt would be tied for fifth in the standings, only three points behind the four drivers tied for first.

Things have continued to improve since Rick Hendrick paired Earnhardt with crew chief Steve Letarte last season. Earnhardt finished outside the top 20 in the standings in 2009 and 2010, but made the Chase last year in his first season with Letarte.

Earnhardt had come close to winning several times with Letarte, but now with the elusive victory out of the way, they can focus on contending for the title.

"It was pretty tough for a couple years," Earnhardt said. "Back when me and [former crew chief Lance McGrew] were trying to figure it out, we worked hard together. We didn't beat on each other too bad, but just couldn't get it figured out.

"It takes a unique combination. You can put the best people together and sometimes not get it to work. It takes a certain combination. We found one that works for me."

David Newton column: Junior's time | Live! rewind | Recap | Results | Highlights

Nationwide Series: Cup boys coming on strong

With a surge in the past seven races, the Cup regulars are back to running roughshod in the Nationwide Series, taking a 7-6 lead this season in victories over the Nationwide guys.

Things started so well, with the non-Cup drivers winning five of the first six Nationwide races (including Camping World Truck Series regular James Buescher winning at Daytona), but it's back to the same old Cup domination now.

Joey Logano is leading the way. His victory Saturday at Michigan was his second consecutive Nationwide win and his fourth in the past six races.

No Cup driver is running the full Nationwide schedule this year, but Logano and Brad Keselowski are close to full time. They each have raced in 11 of the first 13 events.

Only two drivers competing for the Nationwide championship have won a race this year -- three wins for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and two for Elliott Sadler. But winless rookie Austin Dillon is a serious contender to win the title, one year after winning the Truck championship.

Dillon is only eight points behind Sadler for the top spot in the standings. But Dillon might want to stay away from Danica Patrick the next few races.

Patrick's crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., was not happy after the race, feeling Dillon was one of the drivers who caused her car to get loose and spin. So Eury told Patrick it's time for some pay back.

Recap | Results

Camping World Truck Series: Kentucky on tap

The Camping World Truck Series is off until a rare Thursday night race on June 28 at Kentucky Speedway. Justin Lofton leads the standings by five points over Timothy Peters. Rookie Ty Dillon is only 12 points back in third.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is the author of "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks." He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.


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