Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Hendrick can handle transition to 2013 car

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, signs autographs for fans during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennslyvania 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 4, 2012 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)

LONG POND, Pa. — Just when Dale Earnhardt Jr. is really getting the hang of NASCAR’s current Sprint Cup race car, the sport will transition to new designs in 2013.

But Earnhardt, who took over the series lead last Sunday at Indianapolis, is confident his Hendrick Motorsports team can make a smooth transition to a race car that features more distinctive lines and brand identity than its predecessor.

“It’s a source of concern just because it’s a big change,” Earnhardt told the NASCAR Wire Service. “The chassis is the same. I really like the look of the car. It’s a lot more exciting, as far as race cars go, to look at. I think fans will grasp it and appreciate it more.

“I’m with the best organization in the business, and who better to be with to handle a big change like that. I feel confident that we’ll develop this car and understand it and progress with it quicker than most. I’ll be able to enjoy that through performance on the race track.

“That’s what I expect to happen. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s not going to be as big of a deal as the COT (Car of Tomorrow, the name give to the current car when it was introduced in 2007). The COT was a complete revision from the chassis all the way up. This car has the same chassis, so the bridge isn’t quite as long.”

Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt’s teammate, is one of four drivers scheduled to participate in a Goodyear tire test in 2013 cars Tuesday and Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway, where reporters and fans will get their first up-close look at next year’s Chevy SS.

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