Saturday, March 6, 2010

Surprise, Hendrick Cars Are Fast In Practice: Bigger Surprise, Earnhardt Jr Is One of Them

by Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal

There’s nothing worse most Americans hate then when the rich get richer, but this week in Atlanta some may take exception in regards to the NASCAR Nation and a certain Hendrick Motorsports car. Dale Earnhardt Jr looks like a major player in this week’s Kobalt Tools 500 based on what he has done in two days of practice and qualifying. He actually looks like he’s running a real bona fide Hendrick Motorsports car this week.

You wouldn’t get many to argue that half of the NASCAR faithful out there are Dale Earnhardt fans. However, for the last 60 races, Junior hasn’t given them much to cheer about going winless while the rest of his team, in particular Jimmie Johnson, seems to win every week.

It’s a tough load for a proud driver such as Earnhardt Jr to carry each week to the track. How can he be with the best team in the world and remain several levels below what everyone else is doing going into his third year there?

The team has done just about everything possible to get Earnhardt Jr to level of his teammates by changing his crew chiefs, building completely new chassis’ formatted like Mark Martin’s whom he shares a garage with, but still no solid results on the tracks his teammates do well at such as all the down-force tracks like California and Las Vegas.

He started the season with a strong second-place finish at Daytona to kick off the year, but over the last two weeks he’s been very mediocre while his teammates have had the strongest cars.

Daytona can’t be used as a measure for any improvement because it’s a restrictor-plate race. The real barometer for success and what’s to become of the 2010 season is what happens on tracks like this week in Atlanta or last week in Las Vegas.

However, things are looking brighter for Earnhardt Jr. After Friday and Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions, Junior has never looked better while with the Hendrick organization. He’s sitting on the pole for the first time in 68 races and his practice speeds have been up there with his teammates in both single lap and average times which is a good indicator he will be a force to reckon with in Sunday’s race.

Read More Here for Atlanta Practice Info and Ratings....

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