It's been a rough season so far for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Personnel changes, new tires and a shorter spoiler have thrown the No. 8 Budweiser Chevy team for a loop. Dale Earnhardt Jr.. Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt. "We were way, way, way...
It's been a rough season so far for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Personnel changes, new tires and a shorter spoiler have thrown the No. 8 Budweiser Chevy team for a loop.
It wouldn't turn ... pushed real bad. Pete (Rondeau, crew chief) made some really big adjustments, and got it driving good enough at the end to make a stab at it, but we were no better than a third-place car. I don't think we'll have the same problems at Talladega. We've improved a lot as a team since then, too. The communication between Pete and myself has improved a lot."
So far this season, Earnhardt has only four top ten finishes, and three results of 24th or worse. The last two weeks Team 8 seems to have shown signs of life garnering two of those top tens and climbing to 12th in points.
But, there is still a lot of work to do if this team wants to get back to the championship form they showed one year ago. Earnhardt seemed poised last season to make a run at his first title. A debilitating injury sustained in Sonoma at a non-Cup event, however, affected his driving and his resolve.
The team never really seemed to recover.
Flash forward: Team change. The Eury's, Earnhardt's family and most trusted confidants were ousted from the crew, and a complete switch of shops between the 8 team and the No. 15 team of Michael Waltrip ensued.
Things worked out for Waltrip, who is now driving Earnhardt's race winning cars. But the beloved red Chevy hasn't had the same luck. Earnhardt seems concerned, slightly dejected and weighted by the knowledge that they do not have the luxury of time to turn this around.
"I love Talladega," said Earnhardt. "Love going there, love racing there, love winning there. If I never win another race there, just winning five will be something special. It's special that my daddy won so many races at that place. I want to keep that Earnhardt family name at the top of the record books.
"Keep the family tradition going."
Earnhardt's record here is solid. He leads all active drivers with five victories. In ten starts he has only one finish outside of the top-15.
He will have a lot of work to do Sunday. Earnhardt had a poor time-trial effort and will take the green flag from the 36th position.