Despite troubles Earnhardt still favored

Despite troubles Earnhardt still favored

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.

Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt.
"We were way, way, way off at Daytona, and we discovered the problem when we got the car back to the shop," said Earnhardt. "It's a good restrictor- plate car. We had been running pretty good (in the Daytona 500) there for awhile, just kind of beating and banging around in there in the middle about 10th. But at some point we put on a set of tires and the car just drove like it had a big hole in the nose.

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.

Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt.
If he is to be a chase for the championship player this season they must find their weaknesses as a team solve them and get back on track. There would be no better place to do that than the superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama.

"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.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Michael Waltrip