The Junior groupies are back, and their numbers are growing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has long been the most popular driver and blessed with a legion of fans. When he wins, NASCAR wins. It's that simple.
If he ever gets to win on a more regular basis and becomes a serious contender for the playoffs, the crowds will increase and fan intensity might once again hit a fever pitch.
Is it fair to put it all on one driver? No.
But then there has never been another driver that inherited the pedigree Earnhardt did.
While Junior can do a lot of it on his own, he needs a nemesis. He needs someone that's the anti-Junior, much like Jeff Gordon — and just about every other driver — was to his father.
The sad part about that is those days might be over in NASCAR. With the dawning of the super team and super money, these guys kiss and make up quicker than a couple of honeymooners.
Oh, they have their little spats, but it's rarely something that goes from race to race until it's settled. A lot of that falls on the shoulders of the suits. They think negative headlines are bad.
There is an old adage that no headline is bad, and in this case it's true. NASCAR needs to be a little old school.
Tony Stewart toned down his temper and became an owner. He still gets angered, and there will be a time this season when he'll lose his cool, but he's different now. Sure, one of his drivers, Kevin Harvick, will do something ill advised-and Kyle Busch will say something irrational.
But two or three hours after the race they will all sit in the trailer and be instructed that their behavior is not NASCAR-friendly. Driving a stock car at 200 mph is not supposed to be a joy ride. It's supposed to tick you off when you get cut off, when you get pushed and when someone won't get out of your way.
So while a win for Junior is a win for NASCAR, we either need more Junior or more excitement in the remaining 34 races to keep our interest piqued.
NASCAR made sure the final race would be exciting because it's a winner-take-all. Wouldn't all you Junior fans love to see him among those with a shot at Homestead? So would NASCAR.