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Junior making major strides

Updated: November 16, 2003, 5:25 PM ET
By Jerry Bonkowski | Special to ESPN.com

A year ago at this time, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s racing life could have been described in much the same manner as the name of one of his favorite music groups: a Puddle of Mudd.

He was ending a season wracked with controversy, uncertainty and, at times, mediocrity. That he managed to finish the year as high as he did, in 11th place, despite all the distractions was a testament to the tenacity and expertise of his team and his desire to right the wrongs he either caused or endured.

The ...

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