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DATE News (chronologically)
04/23/08
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NASCAR needs for Lil' E to win after Danica's win   If there is a such thing as "the call" in NASCAR, now is the time for Earnhardt Jr. to get that call.

Danica Patrick no doubt feels like the weight of the world is off her shoulders after she finally scored her first career IndyCar win over the weekend.

But while Patrick's load has lightened, perhaps it is Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is now carrying around some heavier freight these days. Earnhardt now has the distinction of being the most well-known driver in auto racing who has seemingly made more trips to the bank recently than to Victory Lane.

Both Patrick and Earnhardt are the faces of their respective racing disciplines. They are the most recognizable and popular personalities in each series and have capitalized tremendously with a wealth of marketing, sponsorship and commercial endorsements.

Many had harshly criticized Patrick for being nothing more than a dog and pony show or auto racing's equivalent of Anna Kournikova after going winless for nearly three years while continuing to appear in countless advertising campaigns, television interviews and media opportunities.

Her win in Japan silenced some of those voices.

"I think you're never going to stop that kind of media," said Patrick. "I think that officially being a female and doing photo shoots and things like that, people are quick to criticize. I think it's all part of it. The more popular you get, the more good and bad press you get. I would hope over time, yes, they would give me credit for the good things that happen."

Patrick's historic victory however, may now shift the attention and similar negative opinions to Earnhardt, who is approaching the two-year anniversary of his last Cup win.

Many see Earnhardt as an overly-hyped marketing machine who has failed to deliver the goods since following in his famous father's footsteps.

Earnhardt isn't too concerned.

"Well, coming up on two years without a win, you know, it's definitely something you recognize," Earnhardt said during a tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday. "It's definitely a stat that you are aware of and reminded of. It's not a whole lot of pressure. I still drive for a good team, I still have a great opportunity to win every time I show up."  More at Sportsline.com

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