|Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 18/1 to win his first race at Sonoma.|
“(No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys are working their guts out. They’re a great team full of good guys, and they deserve a ton of respect. They’re giving it everything they’ve got. I needed an off weekend to have some fun and get my battery recharged for the rest of the year. This break couldn’t have come at a better time … and will hopefully give us a chance to reset and come back with a good attitude, get some points back and get some good finishes back in the bank. Richmond’s going to be here before we know it and we don’t want to be sitting there at Richmond having to finish in a certain spot to make the Chase. I have confidence things are going to work out. We’ve definitely got some season left to get things righted. We’ve got a good team with good speed in our car.”
Earnhardt on racing at Sonoma:
“We used to test really hard to figure out how to get better at road courses. Now we just show up and race, and that’s really been refreshing … and it’s made the race weekends a lot more enjoyable. We’ve had great race cars at the road courses – we’ve gotten better as a company, which has helped me a lot and helped carry me. Sonoma is the most challenging track that I race at. We’ve just got to take care of our car and make it through to the end.”
HEADING IN THE 'RIGHT' DIRECTION: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has mentioned time and again that he is not as confident on road courses as he is on ovals that make up the bread-and-butter of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. But the 41-year-old veteran has stepped up his game when it comes to tackling both left- and right-hand turns. In his first 14 starts at Sonoma Raceway, he never finished inside the top 10, although he did have six top-15 finishes. However, in his most recent two starts at the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course, the driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS has earned two top-10 results, finishing third in 2014 and seventh in last summer’s event. Earnhardt’s best start at Sonoma came in 2007, when he qualified third, and he has finished on the lead lap in 13 of 16 races.
MAKING PASSES: Earnhardt is scored near the top of the board in making passes at the California road course according to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, which cover active drivers in events from 2005 to the present. The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native ranks second in the green-flag passes category with 643 and he’s 10th on the quality passes list with 188. Earnhardt is also 12th in average speed early in a run (90.415 mph), 13th in average speed late in a run (89.105 mph) and 13th in fastest laps run (22 laps).
AXALTA/U-M UNVEIL: On June 13, Axalta Coating Systems celebrated its second consecutive General Motors Supplier of the Year Award at Axalta’s Mount Clemens, Michigan, research and manufacturing facility. During the celebration, representatives from Axalta and the University of Michigan (U-M) unveiled the joint paint scheme that Earnhardt will race on Aug. 28 at Michigan International Speedway. Axalta and U-M recently entered into an educational partnership to support engineering and business students. Axalta will host 50 U-M business and engineering students at Michigan International Speedway to help them better understand the technology and performance that goes into racing and Axalta’s coatings that shine on the car. Click here for photos of the No. 88 Axalta/University of Michigan Chevrolet SS.
OFF-WEEK ADVENTURE: Earnhardt and his fiancée, Amy Reimann, made a return trip to Germany during the off week to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their engagement. The couple enjoyed German food and beverages as they toured various sites during the week-long trip. For highlights of their trip, visit the photo gallery here.
NATIONWIDE SMALL BUSINESS PROMOTION: Earlier in June, Nationwide launched a social media sweepstakes encouraging 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 Chevrolet SS during the Sept. 25 race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 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. The campaign runs through June 30.
- Hendrick Motorsports
NOTE: Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lead the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Sonoma without visiting Victory Lane at 16 each.