2012 season in the rear view: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Vitals: 12th in the points standings. 1 win, 10 top 5s, 20 top 10s. 0 DNFs.

Moment to remember: Where were you on Sunday, June 17, 2012, the day that Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended his winless streak?

If you're a tried and true NASCAR fan, you likely remember every moment of that historic and incredible day in NASCAR history. One that saw Earnhardt Jr. lead 95 laps and pull away from Tony Stewart to record his first win in four years and cause many men, women and children to cry tears of joy.

Moment to forget: Entering Talladega, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in seventh place, 39 points behind the Chase lead. After Talladega, he was 11th, and 51 points back.

But the standings weren't the issue. During that wild crash on the final lap (one that has seemed to be a staple of these year-end reviews because of the individual circumstances it created for many drivers) Junior suffered his second concussion in weeks. The first was a previously undiagnosed one he suffered while tire testing for Goodyear at Kansas Speedway at the end of August. Junior was ruled out of the next two races, Charlotte and Kansas, and Regan Smith took his place.

The wrap: The decision for Junior to sit out two races was, rightfully so, uncontroversial, given the place that concussions have taken at the forefront of sports injury discussion. And it wasn't one that likely cost him a shot at the championship given the deficit and number of drivers between himself and the points lead after Talladega.

But while Junior's final place in the standings looks like a step backward from 2011 by simply looking at the year-end standings, it was a serious step forward for Junior and the No. 88 bunch.

After finishing seventh last year, Junior more than doubled his top fives (from 4 to 10) and nearly did so with his top 10s. (12 to 20). And he gave us that memorable day.

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