This preview takes a look at Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Earnhardt will be piloting the #88 National Guard-An American Salute/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 from the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
An American Salute: In honor of National Guard Soldiers and Memorial Day, the No. 88 Chevrolet will carry a patriotic paint scheme this weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway as part of the NASCAR Unites®- An American Salute program. For a six-week period (May 27 through July 7), the NASCAR industry will lend its support and raise awareness for the needs of military members in very important ways. As the nation’s oldest Armed Forces component, the National Guard and its Citizen Soldiers play a vital role in protecting the freedoms Americans hold dear. Join Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the National Guard this Memorial Day by celebrating America and the men and women who serve this great county. To learn more about the Guard, visit NationalGuard.com, and to learn how you can help support NASCAR Unites, visit NASCAR.com/Unites.
Paint Scheme Unveil: Earnhardt’s No. 88 National Guard-An American Salute/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet paint scheme was revealed on April 9 at the nation’s capital in front of more than 30,000 children and their guests attending the 134th Annual Easter Egg Roll event at the White House.
A Year Ago At Charlotte: In this race last year, Earnhardt was right where he wanted to be when the field took the white flag for the 600-mile event at Charlotte. Earnhardt was leading on the last lap, but ran out of fuel on the backstretch. He coasted his No. 88 Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish at the 1.5-mile track.
Cup Debut: Earnhardt made his Cup career debut on May 30, 1999, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Then 24 years old, Earnhardt started the event eighth and finished 16th. Since then, he has tallied 18 wins, 10 pole positions, 99 top-five finishes and 170 top-10s in 446 career Cup starts.
First Pole Position: Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard-An American Salute/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, earned his first career Cup Series pole position at his hometown track during his 2000 rookie year. He lined up first for the 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in just his 17th start in the Cup Series and finished the race fourth.
At Charlotte: In 25 Cup starts at Charlotte, Earnhardt has recorded one pole position, five top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. He has completed 94.9 percent of all laps he’s attempted (8,465 laps of 8,918 total) at the 1.5-mile oval. The 37-year-old driver has led a total of 324 laps there.
Points After Darlington: After finishing 17th two weeks ago at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Earnhardt remains third in the championship standings. He trails leader Greg Biffle by 14 points.
Chassis Choice: This weekend at Charlotte, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 crew will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-668. Earnhardt won the Sprint Showdown last weekend in this chassis and went on to a fifth-place finish in the Sprint All-Star race.
Intermediate Starts: In 215 Cup starts on intermediate (one- to two-mile) tracks, Earnhardt has recorded six wins, six pole positions, 40 top-five finishes and 80 top-10s. He has a 16.5 average starting position and an average finishing position of 17.1 on these racetracks.
Hendrick at Charlotte: In 56 events (187 starts) at Charlotte, Hendrick Motorsports has 16 wins, which ranks as the best all-time among teams at the 1.5-mile oval. Jimmie Johnson owns six of those victories, which ties him for most wins all-time at Charlotte with NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. Jeff Gordon’s five wins tie him for second all-time. Hendrick Motorsports has 49 top-five finishes and 75 top-10s and has led 3,829 laps at Charlotte since 1984. Johnson most recently won this race from the pole position in October 2009.
Four in a Row: Since claiming its 200th Sprint Cup victory on May 12 at Darlington Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports has won every event held by NASCAR’s elite series. The No. 48 team claimed the organization’s first victory in the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge last week, and Earnhardt followed that with a win in the Sprint Showdown. Johnson won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star event last Saturday.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on Building Momentum for the 600-Mile Event: “I think the (NASCAR Sprint) All-Star Race showed what we are capable of doing for the 600. We are bringing the same car, and we have a couple of ideas on how to make the car even faster — especially for qualifying — that I hope will work out.”