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Earnhardt brings strong showing at 1.5-mile tracks to Kentucky

SPARTA, Ky. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. can draw some confidence heading into Saturday’s Quaker State 400, the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Kentucky Speedway. In addition to the experience he garnered during Thursday’s test session, Earnhardt also has had success this season on 1.5-mile racetracks.

He has averaged a finish of 6.5 in the first four 1.5-mile events of the season and has finished each of those races inside the top 10. Most recently, he took runner-up honors at Kansas Speedway on June 5.

Crew chief Steve Letarte believes that Kentucky’s similarities to other Cup tracks will benefit Earnhardt as he navigates the tri-oval this weekend in a specially painted No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet.

“When you start every race, everyone has the same opportunity,” Letarte said. “I think everyone has the same opportunity at Kentucky. Some have more experience there, but it’s a pretty clear-cut track. It’s a relatively flat mile-and-a-half oval. We run a lot of similar tracks so hopefully we can get this one figured out.”

During Thursday’s test session the team had the opportunity to gather additional information about the Kentucky racetrack. The No. 88 Chevrolet finished the first test session ninth fastest in the field with a speed of 174.531 mph. 

Earnhardt and the No. 88 team remains seventh in the championship standings after finishing 19th at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway last week. Earnhardt was running inside the top five coming to the checkered flag, when he was collected in a 15-car incident. Letarte said the No. 88 team is staying positive as it heads to Kentucky.

“You can’t let it get to you and get you down,” Letarte said. “Daytona is easy to not let it get you down because so much happens at that race that you can’t control. It will be good to get back to Kentucky, back to the 1.5-mile tracks that we have all summer and put our expectations and our results back in our own hands.”

Watch Earnhardt and the No. 88 team compete in the premier 400-mile Cup event Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on TNT.

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