BUSCH: McFarland, Earnhardt have special ride

Opportunity of a Lifetime for McFarland and Dale Jr. El Centro, Cal. (February 27, 2006) - Speed is nothing new to a driver in a top-tier NASCAR division. They routinely race at speeds three times the highway limit. Blue Angels event...

Opportunity of a Lifetime for McFarland and Dale Jr.

El Centro, Cal. (February 27, 2006) - Speed is nothing new to a driver in a top-tier NASCAR division. They routinely race at speeds three times the highway limit.

Blue Angels event in El Centro: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark McFarland about to try a F/A 18 Hornet.
Photo by JR Motorsports.
However Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series and his team owner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have a new perspective on the word. On Monday the two flew with the Navy's Flight Demonstration Crew, the famous Blue Angels, in El Centro, Cal. There they were introduced to speeds in excess of mach 1.2, or 890 mph, and G-forces seven times that of their body weight.

"That was unbelievable, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said McFarland. "I was a little nervous before I went up, but I am ready to go again. What a rush."

"That is the roller coaster that they can't build," sounded Earnhardt, Jr. "I thought we pulled a lot of G's at places like Bristol and Atlanta, but riding with these guys gives you a new perspective. This is a testament to the condition they are in."

Lt. Kevin Davis, Blue Angel No. 7, put the two through roughly an hour each of twists, turns and rolls over the mountains that border NAF El Centro, which is the winter home of the Blue Angels. Pensacola, Fla., The Cradle of Naval Aviation, is their home during the "flight season." A "season" can be made up of 35 locations, the same as a NASCAR Busch season

The similarities between the Blue Angels and the No. 88 Navy crew do not end there. Not only are the drivers and pilots mirror images of each other, the technical aspects of each team's crew are nearly in direct correlation.

Blue Angels event in El Centro: Mark McFarland in a F/A 18 Hornet.
Photo by JR Motorsports.
A pilot selected to become a Blue Angel is generally regarded as one of the best pilots in the Navy. On any given Saturday, as in the case of the Stater Bros. 300 this past weekend at the California Speedway, some of the best stock car drivers in the world will take the green flag in a Busch Series event.

The Blue Angels have their own crew in charge of upkeep and making sure each F/A 18 Hornet is performing at its optimal level. At takeoff there is a mobile "pit crew" that follows the group to the runway in case repairs need to be made in a hurry. A tire can be changed in three minutes on one of the F/A 18's, which when taken into scale is a pretty phenomenal feat. The Navy team provides McFarland with top-notch equipment to compete at the Busch level. Their pit crew routinely knocks off 15 second pit stops to gain McFarland valuable track position.

The Blue Angels are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. By comparison, NASCAR is 58-years-old.

"The two are a natural fit," said Senior Chief Jeff Priest, Navy Motorsports Program Coordinator, in regards to NASCAR and the Navy. "We believe the average NASCAR fan can identify with what the Navy represents. In Mark and Dale Jr. we have two guys who personify everything we are looking for in sailors present and future."

-jrm-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup , NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Mark McFarland
Teams JR Motorsports