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Earnhardt, McGrew optimistic in Dover return

DOVER, Del. (Sept. 25, 2009) – It’s been 15 races since interim crew chief Lance McGrew began calling the shots for driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. This weekend, the No. 88 team heads back to Dover International Speedway, where the duo’s partnership began.

Since that May 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, Earnhardt has improved his average running position to spend nearly 30 percent of his time in the No. 88 Chevrolet running in the top 10 and almost 50 percent in the top 15. Yet, late-race incidents similar to that of last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, have been a common theme and left the No. 88 team with two top-10 finishes during that time frame.

McGrew remains optimistic about the progress he’s seen, particularly in his communication with Earnhardt.

“I think it’s going good,” McGrew said. “It’s definitely been challenging because of the way he (Earnhardt) describes things and the way I am used to things being described is different. So that’s been an adjustment. But I think as a whole, at the racetrack we are performing better. We still aren’t getting the finishes I feel like we deserve, but I’m definitely seeing progress.”

McGrew and Earnhardt turn their attention this week to “The Monster Mile,” the one-mile concrete oval in Dover. Earnhardt has one career win at the racetrack, which he earned in 2001, as well as four top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 19 Cup starts.

“Dover has basically one groove, and it’s right on the bottom,” said Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet. “So trying to get around the bottom of the racetrack and trying to keep the nose down and keep the front of the car turning and gripping is really the most important thing. There’s really not a second or third groove that works all day long. The guy that runs around the bottom and can do it the quickest is the best.”

Race coverage begins Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ABC, and the green flag is scheduled to drop at 2 p.m.