Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Earnhardt Jr. Bringing New Car to Michigan With Hopes of Recreating Old Magic

Junior has gone 107 races without a win
NSCS Michigan Preview: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Michigan International Speedway (2-mile oval)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (Race 15 of 36)

News & Notes

POINTS AFTER POCONO: After finishing sixth last week at Pocono Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks third in the championship standings. He trails leader Carl Edwards by just 10 points. After 14 races this season, Earnhardt has scored three top-five finishes, eight top-10s, earned one pole award and led 42 laps.

MICHIGAN WIN: Earnhardt's June 15, 2008 victory at Michigan International Speedway was his first win in a points-paying event for Hendrick Motorsports and his most recent win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Earnhardt started the race third and led 14 laps on his way to the checkered flag.

AT MICHIGAN: In 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Michigan, Earnhardt has recorded one win, two pole positions, four top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He has completed 99 percent of all laps he's attempted (4,448 laps of 4,491 total).

LEADING LAPS: Earnhardt has led at least one lap during eight of his last 11 starts at Michigan for a total of 109 laps. Overall, he's led the field in 13 of his 23 starts at the two-mile oval for 173 total laps.

MICHIGAN POLES: Earnhardt's two career pole positions at Michigan are tied for first as career-bests for the 36-year-old driver. He also has captured two career poles at Texas Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

AVERAGE FINISH: Over the last 12 Cup Series races at Michigan, Earnhardt has a 10.7 average finish, tying him for third overall among active drivers.

DRIVER RATING: According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks eighth in the driver rating category at Michigan with a score of 95.9. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-668. This is a brand new chassis that has not been raced.

HENDRICK AT MICHIGAN: In 170 Cup starts (55 events) at Michigan, Hendrick Motorsports has scored five wins, 38 top-five finishes, 71 top-10s, nine poles and has led 1,890 laps. Hendrick Motorsports' most recent win at Michigan came in June 2009, when Mark Martin overcame a 32nd-place starting position, took the lead on the last lap and held on for his third win of the 2009 Sprint Cup season.

APPROACHING 200: With Jeff Gordon's win at Pocono Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 197 Cup victories. The organization ranks first in NASCAR's modern era for wins and second all-time behind Petty Enterprises, which has 268 victories.


DALE EARNHARDT JR., DRIVER, NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET (ON MICHIGAN.): "I really like Michigan. It's a real fun place to race. It is a wide racetrack and has a lot of different grooves. We can move around and find places to run on the track which makes it pretty enjoyable. A lot of times that is a fuel-mileage race. You do need a lot of motor too, and we're pretty good in that department."

STEVE LETARTE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET (ON WHY MICHIGAN IS A FUEL-MILEAGE TRACK.): "It's just the fact that we don't have a lot of cautions there. A fuel run at Bristol is so long that a chance of having a caution within a fuel run is pretty high and Michigan you don't. You do a lot of green-flag stops at Michigan, and sometimes at the end, that's how it comes down."

LETARTE (ON WHAT IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT MICHIGAN.): "Michigan tends to get really slick on race day so you need a car that is still able to carry entry speed when the pace slows down and the cars want to come up out of the racetrack. It's also important to have a car that can move from the top to the bottom so when you catch traffic, you can take a lane that they aren't in. It's a multi-groove track, and it's very, very wide. If you have a car that's good enough to change grooves to pass somebody, then you'll have good day."

TEAM BUILDING: Before heading to Michigan, Earnhardt, Letarte and the No. 88 team will stop in Tullahoma, Tenn., on Thursday to attend a team building event with the Tennessee National Guard. The team will participate in several training exercises and unveil the No. 88 National Guard Heritage/AMP Energy Chevrolet that Earnhardt will drive at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in July.

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