March 3rd, 2015
Despite having two wins and a guarantee into the Chase for 2014, there is no playing is safe for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his Hendrick Motorsports team. They have their focus on winning a third race Sunday at Michigan and more beyond.
“No, we don’t play it cautious. We’ve gambled pretty good, a little bit more than we typically would after we won Daytona because of the new point system, so I think we can even be a bit more aggressive and Steve (Letarte, crew chief) probably will in certain situations. We can definitely be more aggressive with our fuel mileage,” explained Earnhardt Friday morning. “That’s typically the one thing that you’ll be more aggressive with whereas say, if you don’t win a win and you’re three laps short, you might try to stay out and hope for them cautions or try to save that fuel mileage over that particular run. Whereas, with two wins, we might do that with something like seven or eight laps short, something ridiculous. But hey, if we get a couple of cautions, then we’re right on the fine line of making it work. And track position at some of these tracks is so important, for example this past weekend at Pocono, you could really gamble hard on that fuel mileage where two years ago, you would have definitely come down pit road and filled it up and tried to get a top 10, like we did in 2012.”
It doesn’t hurt coming to Michigan represents a track where Earnhardt scored his last two wins prior to the 2014 season. In 2008 and 2012 he was able to win, so confidence is high for him and his team.
“I feel pretty good. You’ve got to be confident because we ran well here, but at the same time, this is a new package. We haven’t raced here with the cars slammed to the ground and all the new rules that we’ve got this year. We’ve got some new competitors in the battle. The No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) has been lightning fast every week, so you’ve got to be looking at him when practice starts today to see how they are because they’re going to be fast,” commented Earnhardt. “And you’ve got a lot of new players and some new cars that are going to be up front trying to compete. And, a lot of new challenges that you’re going to have to face that you didn’t face last year or the year before. So, it’s a little bit of a whole new deal. So we’ll see how it works out. I think we can be quick. We came here and tested for Goodyear and had some time and opportunity to work on our car a little bit while we were at the test and maybe learn some things that we needed to learn. Hopefully that will give us an edge.”
The Quicken Loans 400 gets underway at 1 PM EST on Sunday and fans can catch the action on TNT.