Earnhardt: Dover's concrete mile presents unique handling challenges
DOVER, Del. – Think about driving down an old, concrete interstate, and you’ll understand what it’s like to be behind the wheel for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Dover International Raceway.
“Concrete has joints in it like a wooden deck, and much like a wooden deck when you don’t treat it well the boards sort of flare up on the ends, and that’s what the joints on the concrete track do,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy Sugar Free/National Guard Chevrolet. “The track gets bumps in those joints, and they’re consistent bumps like when you’re going down the interstate, and it makes the car sort of chatter around on top of those bumps and joints. And, concrete as you run on it gets chalky; it’s difficult to keep smooth or clean.”
Earnhardt tamed the Monster Mile once before. The victory, which happened Sept. 23, 2001, was the second of his sophomore season. In that race he started third, led 193 laps on his way to Victory Lane. Afterward, he displayed the American flag during his victory lap to pay tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Along with his one trip to Victory Lane, Earnhardt has earned four top-five finishes and seven top-10s during his 22 Cup starts at Dover. He also has led a total of 366 laps and says driving the one-mile concrete oval requires extra attention.
“It doesn’t really bother your focus but it does take some extra attention while you’re driving,” Earnhardt said. “You have to focus a little bit more on the level of grip you have and getting to the edge of the grip level. Driving the car towards that edge is a little bit harder because of the bumps and the shake and the car just jumping around. It sort of weakens the senses you have about the car and makes it harder for you to read what the car is trying to tell you.”
Watch Earnhardt and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates take on the Monster Mile Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on FOX.