CONCORD, N.C. – In a tough situation, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was proud of how the No. 88 team banded together to find success last weekend at Richmond Raceway.
No. 88 team crew chief Greg Ives sat out last Saturday night’s race as part of post-race lug nut infraction penalty from the previous week at Darlington Raceway.
In his stead, No. 88 team car chief Travis Mack stepped into the interim crew chief role.
“What I saw really was with Greg absent everyone knew they had to step up,” Earnhardt said. “The guys did a great job all weekend working on the car. We tried our butts off to give a good car and worked on it in practice and it was great. It was a really good car. I was proud of these guys.”
Earnhardt spent much of the race at Richmond inside the top 10 and reached as high as the top five before a pit road strategy that saw him jump all the way to the race lead.
Though the strategy ultimately didn’t result in a trip to Victory Lane, Earnhardt said he was proud of the effort in a situation where the No. 88 team had to win in order to reach the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
And even in Ives’ absence, Earnhardt was quick to credit his crew chief.
“I think Greg deserves a lot of credit for preparing our guys this weekend,” he said. “I think we proved to ourselves (Saturday) that we can find the speed in the car. And the guys learned a little bit about themselves this weekend I think, too, when they had to step up in Greg’s absence. Greg did a great job preparing them for that and we ran well because of the preparation in the shop – that’s all Greg. I think we learned a little bit about ourselves and know that if we can get that effort moving forward and support Greg we are going to have opportunities like this before the season is over.”
Earnhardt noted that as each team member stepped up to make up for Ives’ absence, they found that the more vocal everyone is, the more successful the team can be.
Now, he’s looking for everyone on the team to keep the same mindset for the home stretch of the campaign.
“I told all my guys at the end of the race last week that this is the team that Greg needs underneath of him to be successful,” he said. “All of these guys stepped up a little bit and we need to be that way all year long. We should be able to do this going forward, at least that’s what I think we’re capable of, so we’re going to keep working hard for these last 10 races.”
The final stretch begins this Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
“Chicago should be a good track for us,” Earnhardt said. “Greg is going to be back. T-Mack is still there as a car chief.”
“We’ve got 10 races to go and we are going to work hard all the way to the end, because I don’t want to have any regrets.”