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Earnhardt hopes to carry momentum into Atlanta

CONCORD, N.C. (Aug. 31, 2009) – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team enter Sunday’s night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a spring in their step after scoring back-to-back top-10 finishes during the last two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events.

Earnhardt earned a ninth-place finish on Aug. 22 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and took third-place honors on Aug. 16 at Michigan International Speedway. The consecutive top-10 finishes—the team’s first of the season—advanced the No. 88 four spots in the Sprint Cup point standings to 21st.

While the leap in the standings doesn’t affect Earnhardt’s postseason chances, it does give the No. 88 team a boost. The Kannapolis, N.C., native remains focused on leading his team and being an asset to his Hendrick Motorsports teammates.

“We are mathematically out of the Chase at this point so we are watching everybody else and seeing how they are going to do,” Earnhardt said. “We are trying to help our teammates the best we can and support them in their efforts. I think Hendrick Motorsports has several opportunities to win the championship. We are going to try to win some races and help our teammates the best we can.”

Atlanta is a solid track for Earnhardt, who ranks third in NASCAR’s driver rating category at the 1.54-mile quad-oval. In 20 Cup events, Earnhardt has scored one win, eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. He has completed 99.4 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (6,391 of 6,432 total) and led 633 laps.

This weekend, Earnhardt will drive a brand new car – Chassis No. 88-559—and interim crew chief Lance McGrew anticipates only moderate changes to the racetrack during the night.

“The track is going to be faster, and there’s going to be more grip,” McGrew said. “That’s pretty much it. I’ve always thought Atlanta is such a driver’s racetrack because it is so wide and races so wide that there’s groove after groove after groove. If your car is not good on the bottom, we’ll try the middle; if it’s not good in the middle, we’ll try two-thirds; if it’s not good there, try the top. You’ll go from the top of one end to the bottom of the other. There’s always ability for a driver to hunt a line that helps his car, which I’ve always liked because, whether you believe it or not, these cars are never perfect. So, you always have to be able to hunt and peck and look for every last little hundredth (of a second) that you can find on the racetrack.”

Race coverage of Sunday’s 325-lap event begins at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The green flag is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m.

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