DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – What’s in a name?
Henceforth, the chassis Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives won’t have one—not since the No. 88 Chevrolet named “Amelia” spun and wrecked at Talladega and was consigned to the chassis “graveyard” on Earnhardt’s property in North Carolina.
“No, we’re not going to be naming cars anymore,” Earnhardt said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. “I knew, as soon as we did that, it sort of took off and put a lot of pressure on that car and the team. These cars just don’t stick around long enough to get names. You used to race cars for years and years, and they would show a personality.
“These days, you only keep a car for maybe a year before it’s unrecognizable or it’s cut out of the herd. We had so much success with that car last year that we ran it this year, and we probably shouldn’t have. There are newer ideas and theories and better ways to do things that car didn’t have. But we assumed, hey, it was doing so well, why wouldn’t it keep going?”
That question answered itself at both restrictor-plate tracks this year. Amelia spun in the Daytona 500 but survived. Then the second of two wrecks in the May race at Talladega forced her into retirement.
With a new chassis ready for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at the 2.5-mile track, Earnhardt expects the balance issues that caused the spins in the first two plate races of the season to be solved.
“We spun out at Daytona and Talladega, and we have a pretty good understanding of why our car has been unstable,” Earnhardt said. “We brought a new car that’s hopefully going to be a much better race car for us. We went back to our set-ups that seemed to work so well.
“So, the guys are always working and trying to find speed, and that really made the car unstable, so we dialed some of that back out and went back to our older set-ups and hopefully that’s going to be all we need to be competitive and be able to get up there and be aggressive.”