Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
Dale Earnhardt Jr., currently sitting in seventh place in the championship points, posted the fastest single lap in first practice, had the fastest 10-lap average, 168.517 mph, and rolls off in 11th place in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He'll be racing to keep his place at the awards banquet, to build momentum that will hopefully carry over to next season, but most of all to break his winless streak that stretches back to Michigan in June, 2008.
In the Team Chevy Driver Press Conference Saturday, Earnhardt allowed that he hadn't run well at HMS. In fact, he's never had so much as a top 10, much less a win. In his 11 races at Homestead, Earnhardt's best finishes were 13th and 15th back in 2000 and 2001. He was, however, looking forward to working with crew chief Steve Letarte at the "other" speedway in Florida.
Earnhardt said, "Looking forward to what changes that might bring about. The difference in how the car might drive. Every time a different guy puts it together, it is going to drive differently. That was all pleasant to find out today the car seems to be pretty good; so it was a good day today...I want to run well at this track to leave here and think that we can come back and be competitive more so than we have."
Earnhardt said, “The car was pretty cool. Right on the track. Real fast."
When asked about Brian France's statement about trying to break up the tandem draft at the superspeedways, Earnhardt said, "I’m glad to hear that and I’m all for helping to make that happen. I think it is going to be as hard as we think it will...There are a lot of variables. These race cars have a bunch of pieces on them and the race track is part of the deal and the tire is part of the deal. There are just so many variables to get it different or make changes...But I'm glad to hear what he said."
Friday night Austin Dillon won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Championship in the No. 3 car. Earnhardt was asked how he felt about seeing the number so closely associated with his father on the track again, if Richard Childress, Dillon's grandfather, had indeed asked Earnhardt and his sister for their approval.
Earnhardt replied,"I don’t look at the numbers tied to drivers as much as just the history of the number. The number is more of a bank, you know, that you just deposit history into. It doesn’t really belong to any individual. Austin’s ran that number and you can’t really deny him the opportunity to continue to run it. It just wouldn’t be fair. Dad (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) did great things. He was a great ambassador for the sport and we’re still as a whole, reaping the benefits of all he accomplished and what he did that put us in front of a lot of people. But even before that, the number was Richard’s. Richard drove it. And someone else drove it before then."
Earnhardt went on to say, "Austin is a good kid, He seems to have a great appreciation for what’s happening to him and what’s going on around him. And I would be happy if he wanted to keep doing that. He kind of had to know when he first started to run that number if he got this far into the deal, he would have to cross a few bridges like that and that was a tough decision I guess at first to start running the number for him; knowing what kind of pressures he might face down the road. But I think it would be fine by me for him to do that. I think that it’s got to get back on the race track one of these days. It just can’t be gone forever you know?”