NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. Returns To the Track His Father Made Famous
After leading 90 laps during last weekend’s Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. comes into this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway with a little momentum on his side.
Earnhardt, who brought cheers from the fans, also brought his legion of fans to their feet with a pass on teammate Jeff Gordon, will be looking for a repeat performance and to hopefully break his 89 race winless streak.
"I just look forward to going back to Talladega and always enjoy racing there. We've always been good and fast there,” said Earnhardt during his mid-week press conference.
Earnhardt also added that, “I hope we can get up front, lead a lot of laps and be there at the end. I want to be in position to make a move for the win.”
Earnhardt, who already has five wins, eight top-fives, and 11 top-10 finishes to go along with his four consecutive wins that date back from October 2001 to April 2003 at Talladega, is hoping to add another victory as he takes his 22nd start on Sunday.
Talladega 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. The record was previously held by Buddy Baker who 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. Those facts 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.
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 that 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 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 than 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 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.
"Some guys just want to risk it all, go up front and run hard. It is a risk because you can get yourself in an accident. Some guys don't want to take that risk and know that being there at the end is the most important thing so they'll try to stay out of trouble,” Earnhardt said.
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? “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.”
Crew chief Lance McGrew, also added that. “I know they love it. Junior Nation loves going to Talladega, and they love watching Dale Jr. It's amazing how passionate they are.”
Earnhardt ended with, “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.”
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