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Earnhardt Excited for Speedweeks at Daytona

Hendrick Motorsports | Race Preview Published 2/13/2013
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EVENT: Daytona 500
TRACK: Daytona International Speedway
LENGTH: 2.5-mile superspeedway
DATE: Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013
TV: Fox (Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET)
RADIO: MRN (Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET)

News & Notes

FOURTEENTH SEASON: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, will kick off his 14th fulltime NASCAR Sprint Cup season when he takes the green flag in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 24. Earnhardt made his Cup debut on May 30, 1999, when he started eighth and finished 16th at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. In 469 career starts, the Kannapolis, N.C., native, has earned 19 wins, 11 pole positions, 105 top-five finishes and 182 top-10s. Only five active, full-time drivers, including Earnhardt’s teammate Jeff Gordon (689), have more career Cup starts.

AT DAYTONA: In 26 Sprint Cup starts at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Earnhardt has recorded two wins, nine top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and has led 396 laps. Earnhardt notched his first pole position at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in 2011, when Hendrick Motorsports won the front row for the Great American Race. Earnhardt averages a starting position of 10.8 and an average finish of 14.5. In 13 Cup seasons, he has finished all but three points-paying events at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

THE SPRINT UNLIMITED: Earnhardt made his Hendrick Motorsports debut in the 2008 Sprint Unlimited and led 47 laps en route to capturing his second career win in the exhibition event. In 12 of those non-points events, Earnhardt won in 2003 and 2008 and claimed runner-up honors in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Earnhardt qualifies for this year’s event because he captured the pole position at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway last September. He also qualifies as a previous winner of the Sprint Unlimited.

UNLIMITED LOOP DATA: During the last seven exhibition events at Daytona, Earnhardt has led the most laps (67) and scored a fifth-place ranking in the driver rating with a score of 95.1. His average running position of 8.886 ranks him fifth during that timeframe, according to NASCAR loop data statistics. In 2008, Earnhardt led 47 laps during the Unlimited, the most of any driver in a single Sprint Unlimited.

FAN-DESIGNED UNLIMITED: This year for the Sprint Unlimited, fans will vote upon the following specifics: starting lineup; the number of laps in each segment; the type of pit stop a team can make after the first segment and how many cars will be eliminated after the second segment. Votes can be cast on NASCAR’s new official mobile app -- NASCAR Mobile ’13 -- or at NASCAR.com/SprintUnlimited. All votes made through the NASCAR Mobile ’13 app will count twice.

EARNHARDT IN THE 500: Earnhardt has scored one win, five top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 13 Daytona 500 appearances. He went to Victory Lane in 2004 after leading 58 laps and defeating Tony Stewart by 0.273 seconds. With an average qualifying spot of 5.1 in the Great American Race, Earnhardt has paced the field in nine events for a total of 153 laps. He has led at least one lap in four of his five Daytona 500 starts in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

DAYTONA DOUBLE: Earnhardt will drive the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet during the 300-mile NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Feb. 23 at Daytona. The 1998 and 1999 Nationwide Series champion has scored six wins, one pole position, 10 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 21 Nationwide starts at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

WINNING WAYS: Earnhardt has 13 NASCAR wins at Daytona -- two in the Sprint Cup Series, six in the Nationwide Series, three during qualifying events and two during exhibition events. He has won the 2004 Daytona 500, the 2001 Pepsi 400, plus two Sprint Unlimited races (2003 and 2008) and three Budweiser Duel 150 qualifiers (2003, 2004 and 2008). Earnhardt won the four straight Nationwide events he entered at Daytona between 2002 and 2004.

STRONG ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS: In 52 combined Cup starts on superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway), Earnhardt has recorded seven wins, 18 top-five finishes and 27 top-10s. He has a 13.2 average starting position and a 14.8 average finishing position on these tracks.

CHASSIS CHOICE: For the Feb. 16 Sprint Unlimited, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 engineers have chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-756, which will be adorned with the blue National Guard paint scheme. This is a brand new chassis that has not been raced. For the Feb. 24 Daytona 500, Letarte has selected Chassis No. 88-773. This is a new chassis that also has not been raced and will feature the blue National Guard scheme.

HENDRICK AT DAYTONA: In 58 points-paying events (186 starts) at Daytona, Hendrick Motorsports has achieved 10 wins, 44 top-five finishes, 80 top-10s and has led 1,380 laps. Six of those wins were earned in the Daytona 500, with the most recent two happening back-to-back with Jeff Gordon in 2005 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006. Hendrick owns six victories in the Sprint Unlimited and most recently won the exhibition event with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008.

MEDIA DAY: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media during NASCAR's media day session on Thursday, Feb. 14. His session will begin at 12:30 p.m. local time at the Daytona 500 Club in the infield at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

Quotes

DALE EARNHARDT JR.(ON THE GEN-6 CAR.): “I’ve been very happy with the way it drives, the way it feels in the corner. It’s just a good-looking race car. You get excited about getting in it and going around the racetrack, and I think the fans are definitely excited about the opportunity this car presents and the direction the sport is going. I know from what I’ve heard from our drivers, we are all pretty pumped up about it, too.”

Standings
After Pure Michigan 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 +1 Jeff Gordon 816 0
2 -1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 813 -3
3 +1 Brad Keselowski 733 -83
4 +1 Joey Logano 714 -102
5 -2 Matt Kenseth 709 -107
6 +2 Kevin Harvick 687 -129
7 -- Jimmie Johnson 686 -130
8 -2 Carl Edwards 679 -137
9 -- Ryan Newman 679 -137
10 +1 Clint Bowyer 672 -144
11 +1 Greg Biffle 660 -156
12 +1 Kasey Kahne 651 -165
Full Standings