|Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 9/2 favorite to win Coke Zero 400.|
“We looked at some of the things we were doing on the plate car this year that we didn’t have last year – some new ideas and new theories how to get the car to be fast, and we think that has compromised how the car handles. Last year, we finished in the top two or three in every single plate race and we were the best car at Daytona and Talladega, hands down. So, we’re going to go back on our setup to 2015, and hopefully that is going to give me the confidence and the comfort that I need to drive the car and be aggressive with it in the draft. I’m looking forward to Daytona and getting back to our winning ways there.”
Earnhardt on Daytona and making the Chase
“Daytona is a good track for us, obviously. We’ve got confidence going into the race. With the points situation, we need to get a nice cushion. We need to try to protect ourselves – just do what we normally do, run and try to win, and not give away chunks of points. We gave away probably 40 points total at the restrictor plate races this year – Daytona and Talladega – by spinning out. Had we run those races and finished reasonably, I’d say that would be about 40 points that we would be able to tack onto what we have today and that would put us comfortably in position to make the Chase."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media at 2:15 p.m. local time on Thursday in the Daytona International Speedway media center.
AT DAYTONA: In the four superspeedway points races last season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had an incredible average finish of 1.75, with two wins and a lowest finish of third place. At Daytona International Speedway, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has four wins, including two Daytona 500 victories, and is tied with Tony Stewart for the most wins of any active driver at the track. Earnhardt is in a five-way tie for seventh on the all-time Daytona wins list. In this year’s Daytona 500, Earnhardt was making a pass for fifth with 31 laps to go when he spun and hit the wall, ending his day and resulting in a 36th-place finish. The result was an anomaly for the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS at the 2.5-mile, D-shaped oval, who heads into Daytona as the defending July race winner.
CLOSE TO HOME: Jay Nolan Jr., the engine tuner for the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, grew up nearby in Jacksonville, Florida, which is just over an hour away from Daytona. Nolan moved to Charlotte in 2002, just three months after he graduated from Jacksonville’s Bishop Kenny High School, with the goal of working for Hendrick Motorsports. In January 2004, that dream became a reality when Nolan was hired to work in teardown in the engine shop after persistent visits to the shop while working other jobs in the area. He worked his way up in the engine department at Hendrick Motorsports, and in 2012 he became the engine tuner for the No. 88 team. In 2014, Nolan won the Daytona 500 with Earnhardt, which he names as by far his best moment in the sport -- not a surprise considering that it’s the biggest race of the year and horsepower is vital to winning a superspeedway race.
GOLD GLOVES: During the month of July, Earnhardt will be wearing gloves accented in gold to raise awareness about hearing impairment as part of The Dale Jr. Foundation’s ongoing Driven to Give Gloves program. Earnhardt’s race-worn gloves will be auctioned off to raise funds for Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s clinical and research programs. Nationwide Children’s is America’s largest pediatric hospital and research center with all care provided regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
NATIONWIDE SMALL-BUSINESS PROMOTION: This is the final week to enter Nationwide’s small-business promotion. The deadline for entries on the social media sweepstakes, which encourages small-business owners to enter for a chance to have the name of their company featured on the TV panel of Earnhardt’s No. 88 Nationwide Chevy during the Sept. 25 race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, is June 30. As the No. 1 small-business insurer in the country, Nationwide remains the carrier of choice for more than 500,000 small-business clients, including Earnhardt. The winner and a guest will also receive a VIP experience to the race that includes flights, lodging and a personal meeting with Earnhardt. To participate in the contest, small-business owners, employees and fans can nominate their “Boss Man” by uploading a picture of him or her doing their best “Water Cooler Dale” impression at www.watercoolerdalejr.com.
AXALTA INJECTOR: Announced in May, Axalta Coating Systems signed on to become the fifth and final founding partner of Daytona International Speedway’s re-development project, Daytona Rising, with branding on the track’s central entrance, referred to as an injector. Daytona completed a three-year, $400 million renovation this year along its frontstretch, where it built the massive, branded entrances that include sponsor-designed “neighborhoods” around them. Axalta has begun work on the injector, but the area won’t be fully completed until 2017.
- Hendrick Motorsports
Dale EARNHARDT JR 9/2 - In 66 career plate races he's got 10 wins and 25 top-five finishes with a 14.4 average finish. He's also led 1,553 laps. Those are all the most in the series now that Jeff Gordon has retired. He's won two of the past five at Daytona and has four overall, including his magical 2001 win the ensuing Daytona race after his father passed. Obviously, this is a very special place for him. However, his ratio of winning at Daytona (four wins in 33 starts) surely doesn't merit low odds like 9-to-2 in the same way like Jimmie Johnson does at Dover or Martinsville or Kevin Harvick at Phoenix.