FEBRUARY 25, 2012 – The next time you see the No. 88 Diet Mountain
Dew/National Guard Chevrolet on track, it will be in the 54th Daytona
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and company concluded Daytona practice Saturday
with only four single-car laps, keeping true to form in the last 48
hours by playing it safe and saving its horse for the race. Crew
chief Steve Letarte elected to turn some precautionary laps to ensure
everything was in working order. Earnhardt Jr. will start fifth in
Sunday's race, which will be televised live on Fox at 1 p.m. ET
(pre-race show starts at Noon ET).
"We just ran by ourselves to make sure we don't have any problems,"
Earnhardt Jr. said. "The car is ready to go. We ran good in the
qualifying race on Thursday. I was pretty happy with the way the car
drove. Today we just wanted to stay out of trouble so we can keep
this thing in one piece for the 500."
By staying away from pack drafting on Saturday, Earnhardt Jr.'s
practice speed of 191.367 was mostly insignificant, as cars go much
slower when not in the draft. Earnhardt Jr.'s last true drafting
session came in Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150, in which he finished
second out of 25 cars and battled Tony Stewart for the win.
Earnhardt Jr. will compete in the DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide
Series race this afternoon (1:15 p.m. ET on ESPN), driving the No. 5
Taxslayer.com Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. He enters the race with
six Nationwide Series wins at Daytona. In all NASCAR sanctioned
races, he has 13 victories at this 2.5-mile superspeedway – two in
Sprint Cup (2001 Pepsi 400 and 2004 Daytona 500), two Budweiser
Shootouts (2003, 2008), three Gatorade Duels (2003, 2004, 2008) and
six Nationwide Series (2002, twice in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2010).