FORT WORTH, Texas – After bringing fans to their feet last weekend with a runner-up finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has set his sights on Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway where the winner gets to celebrate with a cowboy hat, two six-shooters and a hand-carved cowboy boot trophy.
Saturday will mark this year’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series night race. Pre-race coverage of the Cup event at Texas begins at 7 p.m. ET on FOX, and the green flag waves at 7:30 p.m.
Crew chief Steve Letarte is happy with the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet team’s performance last week, but isn’t resting on previous success as they prepare for the 1.5-mile speedway.
“The goals don’t change,” Letarte said. “If you let your expectations change with your results, then you are riding momentum and that is one thing we trying not to do this year. We are trying not to have the ups and downs of the roller coaster. Martinsville was great, and it was great to have an opportunity to win. Our goal is to be relevant and to be in the race and that is our goal every week.”
Texas Motor Speedway has special meaning for Earnhardt. It is the place where he scored his first career wins in the Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series. Earnhardt earned his first Cup win in April 2000, just seven races into his rookie season, and his first Nationwide Series victory on April 4, 1998
“I look forward to going to Texas -- it's a real fast place, and it’s wide,” said Earnhardt, who ranks eighth in the championship standings. “The car needs to move around, and it needs to work in several different groves. Texas has some really, really tricky transitions. The exit off of Turn 2 is a real, real tricky corner -- it is real loose off if you aren’t careful.”
In 17 Cup starts at the speedway, Earnhardt has recorded two pole positions, three top-five finishes and eight top-10s, including his April 2000 victory. Earnhardt also has led 446 laps at the speedway and ranks second among drivers in laps run in the top-15 at Texas. During the past 12 races there, Earnhardt has spent 77.4 percent of the events running in the top 15.
This weekend, Letarte will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-617, which Earnhardt previously raced to an eighth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in February.