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Published June 18, 2012
WINNING EDGE: USA TODAY’S Nate Ryan writes Dale Earnhardt Jr. yesterday won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in more than four years, and his checkered flag at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan Int'l Speedway "could be the harbinger of a wave of success for NASCAR's most popular driver." The performance snapped a 143-race winless streak and "signified Earnhardt's emergence as a prime threat for his first" Sprint Cup Series championship (USA TODAY, 6/18). NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps said Earnhardt's win shows "that he remains a premier athlete in our sport. It's great for Junior, his fans and NASCAR" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/17). SI.com's Bruce Martin, noting Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevy was sponsored by "The Dark Knight Rises" for this race, wrote the win "helps elevate NASCAR into the greater mainstream of sports. ... Imagine how big it would be if he won his first Cup title" (SI.com, 6/17). The ORLANDO SENTINEL's George Diaz wrote, "This is huge for NASCAR. It's hard to market the greatest name in the sport when the greatest name in the sport can't win races" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 6/17).
PICKING UP SPEED: Speed’s Dave Despain said, "There’s been a theory around for quite some time now that if there’s a slump in NASCAR interest, and we know there is … that that is directly related at some level to the fact that the most popular driver isn’t winning.” Speed’s Krista Voda said that Earnhardt’s victory will help ticket sales. She said of the upcoming Sprint Cup race in Kentucky, "You better believe the folks at Kentucky Speedway and all the racetracks on the circuit are going to publicizing and talking about” Earnhardt’s win (“Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain,” Speed, 6/17).
EARLY RETURNS: TNT pulled a 3.1 overnight rating for the Quicken Loans 400, marking a 15% jump from last year and TNT's second consecutive week of NASCAR Sprint Cup ratings growth.