TALLADEGA, Ala. – With the retirement of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is without question the pre-eminent active restrictor-plate racer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has won six times at Talladega Superspeedway, double the number of wins accumulated by second-place Brad Keselowski. He also has four Cup wins at Daytona, including two Daytona 500s.
But what makes Earnhardt so good at racing in the draft?
“One of the things that helped me a lot was when RCR (Richard Childress Racing) and DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) and (Andy) Petree formed the RAD racing program that was strictly dedicated to plate racing,” Earnhardt said. “And (crew chiefs) Tony (Eury) Sr. and Tony Jr., just by happenstance, happened to be very smart about what they needed out of their plate cars and how to work in some of the gray areas that a lot of people didn’t know about.
“Watching my dad (the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.), who was one of the best, I learned a tremendous amount because I solely watched him, whereas someone else who grew up around the sport may not have focused as much on one particular driver. All those things maybe helped me develop into maybe a better plate race car driver than the average guy.”
Dale Earnhardt Sr., of course, is the all-time victory leader at Talladega with 10. Junior qualified third Saturday for Sunday’s race.