Simulator work is paying off for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

DOVER, DE - JUNE 03: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway on June 3, 2017 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has always been a “gamer.” He was one of the pioneers of iRacing, often spending hours online racing against armchair drivers across the globe.

Now Earnhardt is making full use of technology to up his game on the asphalt.

“We went to the simulator, which is something we’ve been trying to infuse into our process a little bit more,” Earnhardt said after qualifying 11th on Friday at Dover International Speedway. “It’s been bearing some fruit and helping us out and making us feel more confident going into the race weekends.

“We first really experienced that in Kansas and had a great practice the first day. Same thing here, we went to the simulator, picked a few things we liked, threw out some stuff that didn’t work.”

That’s one of the main efficiencies of simulator work – eliminating ideas that won’t work before the car gets to the track.

“We come to the race track and we unload, and there is obviously going to be some comments about the car that we want to fix,” Earnhardt said. “We know what not to mess with that is going to waste a lot of practice time, and we can just hit the things that we thought we liked in the sim.

“They correlated really well today (in Friday’s practice). We got the car better in race trim. We only made one change and then swapped over really quick (to qualifying trim). Then for qualifying, we improved the car each run… I’m really happy. We’ve been working, trying to get better.”
SHORT STROKES

Kyle Busch followed Friday’s pole-winning performance by topping the speed chart in Saturday morning’s early practice session at Dover International Speedway. With a fast lap at 158.040 mph, Busch edged Ryan Blaney (157.929 mph) for bragging rights in the session. Jamie McMurray, however, had the fastest 10-consecutive-lap average, an impressive 156.448 mph from Lap 2 through 11 of the 53 circuits he ran. Chase Elliott ran the most laps in the session – 56…

McMurray’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Kyle Larson, paced final practice with a lap at 157.411 mph in a session where the top eight drivers all exceeded 157 mph. Ten-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson was second fastest at 157.301 mph, indicating the seven-time champion will be strong in race trim on Sunday despite a 14th-place qualifying effort.

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