|Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 20/1 to win at Fontana.|
“I love running against the fence just like Kyle (Larson) at Fontana. I think we kind of watch each other and learn a little bit from each other when we get in races where you can do that. Everybody kind of does it differently. If you like running up there, you certainly look out for the other guys that are good at it and see what they are doing and how they are getting around the track.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS, will visit the Auto Club Speedway media center at 12:35 p.m. local time on Friday, March 24.
600 STARTS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will hit a milestone Sunday at Fontana, California, with his 600th career NASCAR Cup Series start. Earnhardt’s first Cup start came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999 while driving for the family-owned Dale Earnhardt Inc. team. The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native ran five races that season with a best finish of 10th. He won two races in his 2000 rookie season – one at Texas Motor Speedway and another at Richmond International Raceway. The 2017 campaign marks Earnhardt’s 18th full-time year in Cup competition (2000-2017). He has amassed 26 career victories, including the 2004 and 2014 Daytona 500s. His 26 wins tie him for 29th on NASCAR’s all-time list. He also has 13 pole positions and eight non-points wins (five in the Daytona 500 qualifying Duels, two in The Clash and one in the NASCAR All-Star Race). Additionally, Earnhardt has been voted by fans as NASCAR’s most popular driver for 14 consecutive years. A decal commemorating his 600 starts will be placed on the B-posts and the front of the hood of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS this weekend.
LOOKING FOR A WIN: Earnhardt has two runner-up finishes at the Fontana speedway, but has yet to earn his first victory there. The 42-year-old veteran earned an 11th-place result in the 2016 event and hasn’t finished outside of the top 12 in his last six visits to the two-mile oval. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics since 2005, Earnhardt leads all active drivers in green-flag passes at the California racetrack with 1,630. He ranks sixth in both average speed late in a run (169.908 mph) and fastest laps run (114).
QUALIFYING IMPROVEMENT: The No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS team has made it to the final round of qualifying in three of four events this season, giving Earnhardt and the team an average starting spot of 8.75. Through the first four races of 2016, Earnhardt’s average starting position was 16.25. The significant improvement in qualifying is a result of a revamped goal-setting strategy from No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives and Earnhardt.
AXALTA RETURNS: This weekend’s race marks the second of 13 races in 2017 where Axalta Coating Systems will be the primary sponsor for Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet SS. Axalta has a stretch of four primary races in a row, including last weekend’s event at Phoenix and the upcoming races at Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. The bright, neon yellow-and-red “Flash Point” paint scheme on the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS was designed by artist Sam Bass.