TALLADEGA, Ala. – Even with four Talladega Superspeedway wins on his resume, Dale Earnhardt Jr. realizes Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event probably will come down to good fortune.
“You have to have luck,” said Earnhardt, who will drive the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet this weekend. “It is just a lottery, especially with the smaller restrictor plate now. I didn’t particularly like the style of racing we had at Daytona (Fla.). I’d rather just have control of what I’ve got to do and not have responsibility for someone else.”
When drivers use the two-car tandem style of racing, success relies on a team effort between drivers and their spotters. One errant move by either and their speed and position are compromised.
Although Earnhardt is not a big fan of the two-car tandem style, he has been successful historically at the 2.66-mile track. In 22 Cup appearances at Talladega, Earnhardt has scored five wins, the most for him at any track, and is ranked third all-time in wins among drivers at the Alabama oval. He scored a record-setting four consecutive wins at the 2.66-mile superspeedway from October 2001 to April 2003 and has earned eight top-five finishes and 11 top-10s there during his career.
The No. 88 team is entering Sunday’s Cup event, which starts at 1 p.m. ET on FOX, ranked sixth in the standings. When asked about his strategy for this weekend’s 500-mile event, crew chief Steve Letarte responded with a simple plan -- to trust that his driver knows what he is doing.
“There are multiple ways to get through Talladega, but I usually leave it up to the driver,” Letarte said. “I’m not a driver. I know what it looks like from pit road, but I can’t completely understand how they draft and how they go about their business. I think it’s going to be a new Talladega. This is going to be the first one after the two-car drafts that we saw in Daytona. No one really knows what’s going to happen, but it’s going to look like Daytona.”
In addition to his duties behind the wheel of his No. 88 Chevrolet, Earnhardt will pilot the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday. In seven Nationwide starts at Talladega, Earnhardt has one win, three top-five finishes and five top-10s. Coverage of the Nationwide race begins at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and the race starts 3 p.m.