Drafting the Circuits

By: Kate Moss  @KateMossRadio


Dale Jr Pocono June 2015

Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Pocono Raceway Media Center June 5, 2015

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is coming into Pocono with a sweep from the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.  Could he have a repeat?  With one career pole and two career wins in all of his years of racing, I am going to say yes, and here is why: His success at Pocono has been a result of the hard work and dedication of an incredible team, the culmination of which came together in his most recent racing years.

Earnhardt Jr.’s average start at Pocono is 14.6 and his average finish is 15.3.  In 30 starts, he has one DNF (Did Not Finish) because of a crash in 2006.  Still, his numbers speak for themselves, and if the momentum from last year carries into this year, no one else will stand a chance.

In the media center on Friday, many drivers expressed concern about the bumpy tunnel turn.  Earnhardt Jr. said “one more bad winter and it’ll be worse, but Brandon (Igdalsky, Pocono Raceway President) is doing the right thing and listening to the drivers’ concerns.”  Joey Logano said that it’s so bad that he is concerned about his car lasting throughout the whole race.

Earnhardt Jr. was also asked about the recent Drivers’ meeting with NASCAR last week.  Several drivers met with NASCAR Saturday night at Dover Downs, the first time an informal session occurred between the two groups in 17 years.  Earnhardt Jr. likes the idea because he said you can “get everyone you want to talk to for five minutes and it can be something that can really benefit the sport.  NASCAR went to the drivers and asked them to get together and organize it.  The drivers won’t really talk about the schedule… that’s NASCAR, the owners, and networks.  Even though I have my own opinion on it.”

Earnhardt Jr. said Pocono is a horsepower race track, and over the past several years they have the best engines in the sport at Hendrick.  “We have really good stuff,” he said.

So, what’s “at work” here?  According to the No. 88, it’s the restart factor, and trying to work the difficult air when you are behind someone and try to pass.  “The car really shines here.”  He also mentioned calling the race backwards like a road course.  “It’s not a strategy they are using every week, so can it be perfected when you don’t do it often and you come to a place like Pocono.  It’s difficult to win here, and there’s a lot of tough competition out there.”

As far as his new crew chief Greg Ives, Earnhardt Jr. notes that the “atmosphere is more business and less jokes.”  Steve Letarte, his former crew chief that retired last year, and he became best friends so everything was on the table as far as their conversations went.  “I don’t know Greg long enough but it will get better as time goes on.  He’s an engineer and has an engineer mind.  He does have a sense of humor, though, but it’s all business.  He takes this super, super serious and I want to give him the opportunity to win.  We are business right now for the time being.”

All business isn’t a bad thing.  Earnhardt Jr. goes into the AXALTA 400 this weekend fifth in points, and not only did he win both races last year, between he and his team at Hendrick Motorsports, one of the drivers has taken home each of the last five races.

Look for a three-pete on Sunday from the No. 88 camp.