Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Lance McGrew: Ready For March Madness at Bristol

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2010

FONTANA, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy Juice/National Guard Chevrolet, speaks with Crew Chief Lance McGrew in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway on February 20, 2010 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

The retooled version of the AMP Energy team No. 88 for 2010 is ready to roll into Bristol Motor Speedway.

Dale Jr. must slow his pace from the torrid Talledega testing speeds to the more modest speeds in the bowl.

Bristol has been kind to Jr. over the years.  He has an average finish of 11.6, which is his best at any Sprint Cup track.

In 20 career starts he has a win, seven top-five and 11 top-ten finishes at here.

Lance McGrew will bring the optimistic team to Bristol 13th in points, hoping to leave having bettered that position.

The track is physically tough on the driver and qualifying is difficult.

This will be a challenge for the restructured team.  McGrew has shown lately he can give Jr. a fast car, but the crew cannot make any mistakes nor can the driver.

The crew chief stated "normally I would go to Bristol in qualifying trim for the first practice."  This time will be different.

The new SAFER barriers are certain to affect the line coming off the corners.

McGrew said "I want to let Dale run 10 or 15 laps until he feels comfortable then we'll switch over to qualifying trim."

All the teams realize the importance of qualifying well at a short track.  Obtaining a good pit stall is everything at Bristol.

McGrew knows his driver must secure a starting position in the top four.

His comment on qualifying was "it's huge because there are only four good pit stalls in the place."

McGrew added "if your not in the top four then everyone is in the same boat.  Past that it is all luck if you have a start-and-park or someone with problems in the pit."

At Bristol track position is very critical and the ability to get in and out of a pit stall can  make the difference between having a good day or a bad day at the track.

Team 88 has been tested on the high banks of Daytona and the mid-sized tracks.  So far definite improvement has been seen over the 2009 season.

Now McGrew is going to be tested on his short track program.

A good finish or a win at Bristol will show the hard work with the team is indeed paying off.  It will also verify that Earnhardt Jr. and McGrew have bonded.

Dale Jr. went to Bristol while he was growing up and watched his dad race.  He looks forward to running there.

Jeff Gordon will raise the bar for the rest of the field.  He has five wins and 14 Top-Five finishes.

Lance McGrew knows Bristol will be a tough race.  Dale Jr. knows the track will be different, but it will be more like it was when he captured a win.

It won't be a surprise to see the No. 88 finish in the top five.  A win is not beyond one's imagination.

As long as Jr. can slither through the wrecks and McGrew gives him a healthy, fast car,  Dale Jr. should leave Bristol with a smile.

It's March, so let the madness begin in Bristol.

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