Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Practice Makes Perfect, Almost!
After a very long absence, the famous No. 3 Wrangler sponsored Chevrolet was once again on the track at Daytona International Speedway.
Once again, there was an Earnhardt behind the wheel.
In a one time one race deal, Dale Earnhardt Jr. agreed to honor his father's induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame by driving his famous No. 3 Wrangler sponsored car in this weekend's Nationwide Race.
As this picture shows, it was obvious Dale Jr. had his game face on right from the beginning.
Photo Credits: David L. Yeazell
All photos copyright David L. Yeazell
Let's Get Started
The announcement was made months ago. The media was treated to an official unveiling at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the All Star race.
On Wednesday, after all the formalities were over, it was time to get started.
Earnhardt Jr. took advantage of a rare open test session for Nationwide drivers so that he could get a feel for the Nationwide version of the Car of Tomorrow.
Noticeably missing from the NASCAR test session were Kyle Busch and Earnhardt driver Danica Patrick.
Earnhardt Jr. took advantage of more track time during Thursday's two practice sessions at Daytona.
It was pretty clear Earnhardt Jr. figured out the new car pretty quick. He posted the third best practice time.
Each Crew Member Is Wearing New Jeans.
Earnhardt Jr's crew rolls the No. 3 Wrangler car onto pit road in preparation for qualifying.
It would be a long wait though. Earnhardt's qualifying draw was third from the bottom.
Sign Here Please
With Mike Davis, Earnhardt's public relations man, following close behind, Earnhardt Jr. signed a few autographs on his way to the qualifying grid.
Jr. Speaks, Jr. Sleeps
Earnhardt Jr. gestures with his hands as he speaks to his crew chief Tony Eury Jr.
Last minute strategies are commonplace in NASCAR, especially just before qualifying or the race.
It does help if both parties are awake though. Look at Eury Jr's eyes, he seems to be napping.
Am I The Only One Who Is Confused?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. struck a one race deal with Richard Childress Racing to drive the No. 3 Wrangler car.
Although NASCAR owns the numbers, the No. 3 is still issued to RCR.
Jr. is driving for RCR, but Tony Eury Jr. is the crew chief. This guy in the photo is an engine tuner for Hendrick Motorsports.
There were at least 3 Hendrick employees on the crew for the car.
Fast First Lap
An overcast day, a cool track, and a late draw may have given Earnhardt Jr. a slight advantage.
Of course all the practice in the past two days could have also helped.
Jr's first lap wasn't too fast, but at Daytona drivers get two laps.
No. 3 In Third
Members of Earnhardt Jr's No. 88 Sprint Cup team look on as he takes the checkered flag on his qualifying attempt.
Jr. would put his No. 3 Wrangler car in the provisional third position.
Three cars later, Earnhardt Jr. would solidify his inside second row starting position.
Not Quite Done
With his window net down, heading for post qualifying inspection, Earnhardt Jr. capitalized on several days of hard work.
Although he did not put the car on the pole, Jr. did secure a good starting position. He put himself at the front of the pack for tonight's race.
The noise from the small crowd on hand for today's qualifying didn't sound too small when Earnhardt Jr. returned from the track.
Earnhardt Jr. seems to have adapted to the new COT quite well. All the signs point to the possibility of the No. 3 returning to victory lane at Daytona.
Daytona may have taken his father's life, but today, Earnhardt Jr. showed it didn't take his spirit.