Top Five Wins for Dale Earnhardt Jr. In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Sometimes being a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not the easiest thing in the world, but despite all the negative criticism he receives he has won 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Though I have watched them all and have enjoyed every one, there are five race wins in particular that top the list.

Number 5: 2004 Sharpie 500, Bristol Motor Speedway

The 2004 Bristol night race was won by Dale Earnhardt Jr. after he won the race the day before, thus making Dale Jr. the first driver ever to sweep the weekend at the famed short track. The win was big as it broke a slump of sorts for Earnhardt Jr. and was memorable for the victory burnout that Dale Jr. performed, which saw him pin the nose of his car to the wall and then spin the tires wildly, creating all kinds of smoke and noise.

Number 4: 2000 DirecTV 500, Texas Motor Speedway

That 2000 Texas race would be on a day of firsts. It marked the first time that Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in the Sprint Cup Series and also marked the first win for his family's racing team Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, or DEI. But the most memorable scene that day was seeing Dale Earnhardt filled with pride as he smiled from ear to ear while hugging his son in victory lane.

Number 3: 2000 Pepsi 500, Daytona International Speedway

In what had to be the most emotional victory of his career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in his first trip back to the track that claimed the life of his father just months earlier. While he didn't look to be in contention in the closing laps he came from almost nowhere and took the checkered flag. The victory, like his father's car number, was "3" for Dale Jr.

Hollywood couldn't have scripted a more perfect or more emotional win.

Number 2: 2004 Daytona 500, Daytona International Speedway

Of course the biggest race that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has ever won was the Daytona 500 in 2004. With a strong and dominating car all day he reminded the world that Daytona was a place that belonged to the Earnhardt family. In a fitting manner, Dale Jr. won the Daytona 500 "3" years after the death of his father at that very same track in that very same race.

Number 1: The Win that Broke the Winless Streak, Track TBD

Okay, there are plenty of other wins I could use in this top five list, but in my mind there will be no bigger win than the one that finally ends Dale Jr.'s long winless streak that has spanned several seasons now. For as many great moments and great wins as the driver already has, there will be none sweeter to me as a fan than the one that he gets next, which will be the one to silence the critics, for a little while at least.

Jimmy Collins has been a loyal fan of NASCAR since he was a child attending races watching Dale Earnhardt run the famous number 3. He still attends numerous races each season and enjoys writing about NASCAR, particularly in regards to Dale Earnhardt as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr.

More from this contributor:

NASCAR Most Popular Driver: Top Five Reasons Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins in 2012

Top Five Reasons Dale Earnhardt Jr. Will Break Winless Streak in 2012

Top Five Reasons Dale Earnhardt Jr. Isn't Overrated

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Updated Wednesday, Mar 28, 2012