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?