Now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. can finally put his mind to rest with Fridays announcement that Lance McGrew will no longer be his interim crew chief, but instead was given the stamp of approval while raising his status to permanent.
The announcement couldn’t have come at a better time because statistically speaking; this is as good as it gets for Jr. Nation.
Earnhardt, who already has five wins, eight tops fives, and 11 top 10s to go along with his four consecutive wins that date back from October 2001 to April 2003 is hoping to add another victory as he takes his 20th start on Sunday.
Talladega which has a very rich history whenever the name Earnhardt is mentioned around these parts, dating back to when Dale Earnhardt Sr won 10 races of his own which is also a track record.
And not to be outdone by his father, Earnhardt Jr. also broke an old record with his four consecutive race wins, which was previously held by Buddy Baker when he had three consecutive wins of his own from 1975-1976.
The combined total of 15 race wins also includes the five that Earnhardt Jr. picked up during his 10 years in the cup series, can easily be used to make a strong argument that this is the house that Earnhardt built.
The aura that is Talladega, has given Earnhardt Jr. a fan base that far exceeds that of any other track in the Sprint cup series.
And if Earnhardt does take the lead on Sunday, it will be more than evident that “The Earnhardt” name is still synonymous with this monster of a racetrack by all the cheers, and also by the sea of green which will drape each and every grandstand.
Sunday's race winner will ultimately be decided on which driver can best use the draft to his own advantage, and no driver knew it better than Earnhardt Sr. himself. Earnhardt Sr. mastered the draft to the point, that many of of his fellow drivers thought he could actually see the air that was traveling around him.
Without some kind of knowledge of exactly how the draft works, a driver will have more then his share of problems because it is not something that you can just pick-up in a race or two.
“It’s definitely something you learn. You can watch it on television and gain a little bit of knowledge, but you have to get out there and make the mistakes and make things happen to understand them,” said Earnhardt Jr. who learned a lot about the draft from his dad.
Patience was another lesson that the younger Earnhardt learned from his dad, especially if a driver ever expects to excel at this enormous size racing venue.
A driver needs to be able to hang out in a nice safe spot if there is one, but he also has to keep an eye out on what’s going on in order to strike at the right moment. Earnhardt knows who he can work with, and that’s a big part of it, too—having the right people to draft with.
Earnhardt is back at a place where he has done very well at in the past, so why shouldn't his feelings reflect that same attitude? Especially now that his crew chief situation is all taken care of, and at the same time taking away the pressure of wondering who was it going to be?
“I go in with a real good attitude. When you go into something with a good attitude you normally get good results. Dad was real good at it."
Earnhardt also added that, "We always just put a little extra attention into those races and those race cars that we took to those tracks. We spent a little more time with them, and we just take it very, very seriously.”
So far this season, Earnhardt is the only driver in the HMS stable that has yet to reach victory lane.
So why sugarcoat the truth, especially when the facts are out on the table. And the fact of the matter is, Earnhardt led 20 laps in the spring race where he had his best finish of the season bringing home a second behind race winner Brad Keselowski.
“It would mean a lot to win here. We’re a team that needs to win pretty badly. We like running here and have had some success here in the past. We’ve got a good shot at getting the win. We’ll get them at Talladega.”
Even Earnhardt’s newest full-time crew chief Lance McGrew, knows who’s house they are visiting on Sunday. “I know they love it. Junior Nation loves going to Talladega, and they love watching Dale Jr. It's amazing how passionate they are.”
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