Daytona 500: Dale Earnhardt Jr. preview

AT DAYTONA: In 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has recorded two wins, six top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and has led 383 laps. He averages a starting position of 11.5 and a finish of...

AT DAYTONA: In 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has recorded two wins, six top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and has led 383 laps. He averages a starting position of 11.5 and a finish of 15.6. In 10 Cup seasons, Earnhardt has finished all but two events at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

THE SHOOTOUT: Earnhardt made his Hendrick Motorsports debut in the 2008 Budweiser Shootout and led 47 laps en route to capturing his second career win in the exhibition event. In nine Shootout events, Earnhardt has won twice (2003 and 2008) and was the runner-up three times (2002, 2004 and 2006). He has finished outside the top 10 only twice, including last season when he led a race-high 23 laps and was collected in a late-race incident in Turn 4. Earnhardt qualifies for this year's shootout as a previous winner of the Daytona 500, the Pepsi 400 in Daytona and the Budweiser Shootout.

EARNHARDT IN THE 500: Earnhardt has scored one win, three top-five finishes and five top-10s in 10 Daytona 500 appearances. Earnhardt led 59 laps during his Feb. 15, 2004, victory, when he defeated Tony Stewart by 0.273 seconds. He has paced the field in seven Daytona 500s for a total of 141 laps.

WINNING WAYS: Earnhardt has 12 NASCAR wins at Daytona: two in points-paying Sprint Cup races, five in the Nationwide Series, three during qualifying events and two in exhibitions. He has won the Daytona 500 (2004), the Pepsi 400 (2001), two Budweiser Shootouts (2003 and 2008) and three Gatorade Duel qualifying races (2003, 2004 and 2008). The two-time Nationwide Series champion won four straight Daytona Nationwide events he entered between 2002 and 2004 and collected his fifth victory on June 30, 2006.

CHASSIS CHOICE: For the Feb. 6 Budweiser Shootout, crew chief Lance McGrew and the No. 88 engineers have chosen Chassis No. 88-459, which will be adorned with the blue National Guard/AMP Energy paint scheme. This is the same car that Earnhardt drove during the 2009 exhibition event. For the Feb. 14 Daytona 500, McGrew has selected Chassis No. 88-563, a brand new chassis that never has been raced or tested. The Daytona 500 car will feature the green AMP Energy/National Guard scheme.

NEW FACES: Although not strangers to Hendrick Motorsports, three new road crew members have joined the No. 88 team. Mechanic Kevin Hulstein and lead engineer Chris Heroy previously worked with the organization's No. 5 team, while engineer Chris Doherty was a member of Hendrick Motorsports research and development team.

DAYTONA DOUBLE: It will be a double-duty weekend for Earnhardt, who also will drive the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet during the 300-mile Nationwide Series event on Feb. 13 at Daytona. The 1998 and 1999 Nationwide Series champion has scored five wins, one pole position, eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10s in 17 Nationwide starts at the racetrack.

STRONG ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS: In 40 Cup starts on restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega, Ala.), Earnhardt has recorded seven wins, 14 top-five finishes and 22 top-10s. He has a 14.5 average starting position and an average finishing position of 14.8.

HENDRICK AT DAYTONA: After 26 seasons of running the Daytona 500, Hendrick Motorsports drivers have tallied six wins, 19 top-five finishes, 34 top-10s and six pole positions in 81 starts. Hendrick drivers have finished inside the top 10 in all but four events.

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CHEVY STAGE: Fans can see Earnhardt on Feb. 14 at 10:15 a.m. local time at Daytona International Speedway on the Chevy Stage, located in the merchandise area outside Turn 4. Earnhardt will be part of a fan question-and-answer session hosted by Chevrolet.

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DALE EARNHARDT JR., DRIVER, NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET
(ON GETTING BACK TO DAYTONA.): "I look forward to seeing everybody -- seeing the other drivers and crew members and everyone we haven't seen all offseason. I look forward to hitting the track and getting some speed and going fast. We get down to Daytona and get to go right into drafting practice with the Shootout car, so you get to do a little racing right off the bat. It's good to get to the track and get it out of your system."

EARNHARDT (ON NEW RULES FOR DAYTONA.): "I'm pretty happy about the new plate. It's going to give the car a little more throttle response. I'm glad that NASCAR isn't going to police the bump drafting so we can all police ourselves and show our personalities. Hopefully our personalities will be a little more visible on the racetrack."

EARNHARDT (ON CHANGES TO THE NOS. 5/88 SHOP.): "I'm excited to see how that correlates to performance on the racetrack. It's a good thing, and Lance (McGrew, crew chief) has done a great job working with Alan (Gustafson, No. 5 crew chief). They have formed a great bond and have a lot of respect for each other. They have an alliance to help both teams."

LANCE McGREW, CREW CHIEF, NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET (ON NASCAR'S NEW RESTRICTOR-PLATE RULE.): "I don't think there are any negatives. I don't think you are going to see any great differences in speed by the little bit of horsepower gained from the restrictor plate. It kind of balances things out. The restrictor plate gives a throttle response, and you aren't as scared to let off the gas because you can build momentum back quicker if you have a little more power."

McGREW (ON WHAT IT TAKES TO BE GOOD AT DAYTONA.): "Daytona is Daytona. It's just really rough. You have to work on the chassis handling. It doesn't matter how good your body is or how much horsepower you make; if you aren't on the gas because the car's not turning then it doesn't work."

McGREW (ON THE DAYTONA 500): "It's just one of those places you go that you remember the whole week. You remember how you felt, where you were standing during the pre-race. You remember who was there. The crowd and the electricity as you are standing on pit road before the race starts are amazing. It's like a rock concert, hair-standing-up-on-your-arms kind of deal. Winning there would make your whole season. We've done a lot of homework over the offseason and built two new speedway cars. We've got good motors, we've got good bodies, and we've got the right people in the right places. It would mean so much to start the season off well. It would catapult us and do a whole lot for our confidence."

McGREW (ON PREPARATION FOR THE 2010 SEASON.): "Daytona is one race. Arguably it's our most important. It's our Super Bowl that kicks off our season. It's a great report card of what you have achieved during the offseason. We have worked very hard on the team, the structure of the shop and building stronger, faster cars. We are trying to be as efficient as we possibly can and carry that to the track. The bottom line is that we have to run better. Through restructuring some people, leaning on some heavyweights that have been here forever and empowering some other people, we feel like we are stronger than we have ever been."

McGREW (ON SETTING THE TONE FOR THE SEASON.): "I think it takes four or five races to set the tone. You can't go down there with all your cards on the table because you never know what can happen. You can have a freak motor failure or a part breakage or get hung up in a wreck that's not of your doing. You have to be just as prepared to go to California the next week. It would be a great springboard to go down to Daytona and run good. You're head would be high in California. The first five races are a very good barometer for a race team."

-source: hendrick motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , JR Motorsports