CONCORD, N.C. – The preseason is almost over and it is nearly that time for drivers to get ready to start their engines.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 team are looking to build on a successful 2015 campaign as they strive to advance to the very end of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this season.
“We got a little better over the last five or six years,” Earnhardt said. “I’m just hoping we can continue that transition, continue that progress. We are not very far from being able to win the championship and continuing to challenge on into Homestead.”
The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS has proved his progress over time. Last season, Earnhardt tied his career high for top-five finishes with 16 and experienced his second consecutive season with three or more wins. He also capped off four straight seasons of 20 or more top-10s and double-digit top-five finishes.
But even with those highlights, Earnhardt was eliminated in the second round of the Chase in 2015. The lesson he takes into this season is the importance of putting together his best races of the year once the postseason arrives.
“The season has its ups and downs. Teams’ ability to compete comes and goes. You’ve just got to peak at the right time -- that’s important,” Earnhardt said. “The whole company has got to peak at the right time. You’ve got to really be able to develop that car you need to take at the racetrack at the right time.”
Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick has the belief that the entire organization will be able to do just that. And when asked whether Earnhardt can make a run at a title in 2016, he showed the confidence that he has in the driver of the No. 88 Chevy.
“To me, seeing him happy is a championship for me. Of course I want him to -- not that it would make me any prouder, and there’s pressure on me to give him the tools to do it,” Hendrick said. “The short answer is it would mean the world to see him win one and be a part of it. We’re going to do everything we can to do that because I think he’s in his prime right now.”
As the 2016 season approaches, Earnhardt is happy with where his career – and life away from the track – is going.
“It’s peaking. It’s heading in the right direction for sure,” he said. “I think there are a lot of great things on the horizon is what I mean by that. I’m getting married soon.
“A lot of great things are happening to me professionally, on and off the racetrack, that are awesome.”