Friday, August 17, 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. confident he can sweep at Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- No driver has swept a season's NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway since Bobby Labonte in 1985.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a chance for a sweep Sunday when he rolls off in the 43-car field for the Pure Michigan 400.
"Our setup is pretty much the same as the one we used (in June)," Earnhardt said Friday before the first practice session of the weekend.
Earnhardt, who broke a 143-race winless streak when he took the checkered flag at MIS on Father's Day, quipped, "All we did was wash the car. I don't think we even touched it. At least, that's what I was told.
“I think we’re a more veteran, faster team than we were here the first trip here.
“There is a little bit of pressure, I guess, because people know that you did so well the last time here. I feel pretty comfortable we will be fast. We should be able to go out there and compete for the win. If we don’t, I’ll be pretty disappointed.”
Earnhardt led 95 of the 200 laps in the June race.
“You just go out there and try to lead,” Earnhardt, outlining his strategy for racing at MIS, said. “Get to the front. If you aren’t in the front, get to the front and pass the guy in front of you. Pretty simple. You run as hard as you can every lap.”
Earnhardt is fourth in points as the season heads into the 23rd race of the season.
He would like to rack up another win or two during the four races before the field is set for the Chase.
“We need more bonus points so we can lead the points once we go into Chicago (and the first Chase race),” the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet said. “That would give the team a lot of confidence.  We feel like we’ve been so strong this year. We’re just a little shy in the win column.
“But if the wins want to wait and come in the Chase, that’s fine with me.”
“If we were still winless, we’d feel a little bit snakebitten,” Earnhardt said. “I guess that might mess with you mentally.
“Once you do break through that barrier, it gives you reason to believe you can do it again at any moment.”
Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt drove 22 laps during the practice session that preceded qualifying.
His final lap, 194.227 mph, was his fastest. It was 22nd-fastest overall.
Both of Earnhardt’s points victories with Hendrick Motorsports came at MIS.
He also won in June 2008.
“We want to win every opportunity we get on the race track,” Dale Jr. said. “We don’t show up to lose.”
Earnhardt isn’t surprised that no one has swept the MIS races since the 1980s.
“It’s hard to dominate the race here,” he said. “The track is really competitive, really wide. It allows for quite a bit of passing, so it is hard to dominate the race.
“There are a lot of variables that come in. More cautions and stuff like that come in, so racing strategies change.
 “Back when the races used to get swept, it was more about engines. All the teams are quite equal (now). There’s not a car dominating under the hood like they used to.”

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