Last weekend the Michigan International Speedway was supposed to be where Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got back on track and erased a 30th place finish at Watkins Glen the week before. Instead a cut tire led to a worse finish of 36th place at the track where he’s gotten his two last wins.
Now the series is off to the Bristol Motor Speedway, a clustered half mile track where anything can happen. That unknown will have Earnhardt and his crew worried since they now sit seventh in points. That still has him in the Chase, but without a win if he slips anymore, he could be on the outside looking in when the Sprint Cup Series leaves Richmond to begin the Chase.
Recent history helps Earnhardt’s case as he scored a sixth place finish in the spring at the track, but we all know when the sun goes down the intensity turns up on Thunder Valley.
Even with that, Earnhardt isn’t afraid of what Bristol brings. “The Saturday night race is one of the best tickets in the series. It’s an exciting racetrack, and it’s a lot of fun for the drivers. You’re always in the middle of something every lap. It keeps you on your toes, and it’s a pretty tough racetrack. I enjoy the challenge and look forward to hopefully having a good weekend.”
For the race the Steve Letarte led crew will be bringing chassis No. 88-745. The last time out for that chassis was a 10th place run at Dover in June.
Confidence can be on Earnhardt’s side historically. In the last 17 races at Bristol he has the best average finish, clocking in at a 9.7 average. This include nine top-10 finishes over that span. Overall for the team, Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins in 59 Cup races at Bristol. Teammates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne represent the active win leader (Gordon) and most recent winner (Kahne).
The action gets under way for the Sprint Cup Series Saturday night at 7:30 and can be seen on ABC.