No let-up

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, left, prepares his helmet while talking to crew chief Greg Ives in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, left, prepares his helmet while talking to crew chief Greg Ives in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, left, prepares his helmet while talking to crew chief Greg Ives in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fast during Thursday night’s first Budweiser Duel at Daytona qualifying race, which he won after starting at the back of the field.

Nothing changed on Friday, after Earnhardt’s crew replaced the engine used in the Duel with a new one for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Earnhardt skipped Friday’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session but in the second practice, his No. 88 Chevrolet topped the speed chart at 194.405 mph, nearly a full mile-an-hour faster than the 193.528 mph lap posted by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne.

How good is Earnhardt’s car? So good that it surprised it’s driver in the Duels.

“It finishes a lot of moves,” Earnhardt. “It kind of surprised me. It does a couple things that surprised me out there in the race. So I felt like the car made the job a lot easier.”

Hendrick cars driven by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson swept the front row in last Sunday’s Daytona 500 time trials. Then Earnhardt and Johnson swept Thursday’s Duels.

And on Friday afternoon, cars powered by Hendrick engines—those of Earnhardt, Kahne, Johnson and Danica Patrick were the four fastest cars in the final practice of the day.

Do we see a trend here?

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.