FORT WORTH, Texas – As soon as Dale Earnhardt Jr. touched down in Fort Worth for Thursday’s test session, he was anxious to get back on the track and turn laps in preparation for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway.
Maybe just as importantly, Earnhardt was interested in erasing from his mind last week’s 24th-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. During that race, the track bar came loose on the left side of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS and prompted a tight-handling issue that made navigating the short track difficult. He slipped from first to third in the driver standings, but trails leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson by only 12 points going into this weekend.
“I really didn’t get over that run last week (at Martinsville) until we touched down today in Texas,” Earnhardt told members of the media during a break in Cup testing on Thursday. “I wanted to get to the racetrack as soon as I could just to get that behind me and put a good result on the board and just forget about that run. You can’t really do that until you can get to the racetrack. … It takes me until I can get to the racetrack and redeem myself really to be able to get over it.”
Driving the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, Earnhardt recorded the 14th-fastest time during the first test session on Thursday and the 17th-fastest in the second one. Speed wasn’t his primary concern though. Instead, he focused on being ready when the green flag falls for the first night race of the 2013 season this Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET FOX).
Another encouraging note for Earnhardt was the way the Gen-6 Chevy handled on the 1.5-mile track. The new car seemed to function well off his team’s existing notes apart from some aero and chassis variances. That should be good news for Earnhardt fans because their driver has recorded four straight top-10 results at the 1.5-mile track during his last four trips there.
“I enjoy racing at Texas,” Earnhardt said. “It’s a mile and a half, like a lot of tracks we run on in the series, but this track has got some oddities to it that make it different than most of the other 1.5-mile tracks. The exits, to Turn 2 especially, are a real challenge. And the bumps and stuff are pretty challenging on the bottom of both corners. The entry to (Turn) 1 is always a lot of fun. It’s really fast and just trying to get the car through the middle is a challenge there. Texas is a unique place.”