Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having the dream season so far, winning the Daytona 500 and backing it up with a second place finish at Phoenix International Raceway. The driver of the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet says the success so far brings forth a lot of confidence and positive attitude, which leads to more success on track.
“We’ve been building that confidence obviously for several years resulting in a really solid season last year, especially throughout the Chase,” he commented. “Starting off this year with a win and a second place finish just continues to make us feel like what we’re doing is working and what we’re doing is heading in the right direction. When you get more confidence you’re more positive and relationships with yourself and your crew chief and among your crew members and what have you are better, easier when everything is working. So far, so good.”
Despite the early confidence, Earnhardt Jr. recognizes its a long year and says that they’ll be obstacles and challenges that they’ll have to work their way through. It’ll all be about maximizing the opportunities on track to learn during practices, and keeping the results as solid as they can on the track.
Earnhardt Jr. timed in 19th quickest in today’s test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he said his team was looking to learn as much as they could about the new ‘no minimum ride height’ rule and the new higher spoilers.
“They’re allowing some different things with bump stops as well and there are just a lot of different variables that we have yet to be able to get on the race track,” Earnhardt Jr. commented. “I know a lot of other teams have tested a lot at Nashville and some places, but there are some teams like ourselves who haven’t really put a lot of time into testing in the off-season due to the lack of reasonable facilities to test at. I think a lot of teams just really want to get out there and try everything they can and learn as much as they can at a race track that we actually compete.”
Earnhardt added that what they’ve learned today will not only translate to this weekend’s race, but races in the future at places like Charlotte and Texas.
Las Vegas is always an important stop on the schedule for the reason as it’s the first time teams get to see where they stack up against each other on mile and a half race tracks. Earnhardt Jr. mentioned that if teams come out of Las Vegas with a good run and confidence, it could turn into momentum and more wins down the road.
While in past years Earnhardt hasn’t been the strongest driver at Hendrick Motorsports, so far this year he is. Earnhardt attributes that to the work with his teammates, but also the hard work that he and crew chief Steve LeTarte have put in. Being the quickest out of the bunch so far feels good, but he knows that each of his teammates are smart and could very well get right up there.
“They raise your game, it’s good to have people pushing you and they definitely push me to be better as a driver and I learn a lot from all three of them,” he commented.