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An 'awesome' fill-in at spotter for Earnhardt Jr.

February 28, 2014, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com

An 'awesome' fill-in at spotter for Earnhardt Jr.
Bill Elliott to step up for No. 88 team in practice, qualifying

RELATED: Weekend schedule | Phoenix Race Center

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., who already has had a whirlwind week in the wake of his second career Daytona 500 victory and the accompanying media tour rush that goes along with it, is in line for another great weekend. Perhaps even an awesome one.

Earnhardt's No. 88 team spotter TJ Majors is out for the weekend, resting at home with a medical issue and leaving an open spot to be filled by 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott. Elliott, of course, is affectionately dubbed "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville," a nod to his hometown of Dawsonville, Ga.

Elliott will just fill in during practice, while Jeff Dickerson -- who previously spotted for Jeff Gordon and filled in last year at Atlanta for Majors when a similar issue cropped up -- will be on the tower for Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500 presented by Small Business Fueling America (3 p.m. ET, FOX). With Elliott spotting, Earnhardt Jr. paced the field in the first practice session Friday.

Earnhardt started and finished eighth at Atlanta last year, but losing Majors could be a major factor as the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet looks to hold onto his points lead.

"(Majors) just hates having to miss it," Earnhardt said Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. "He is a huge part of our team. We have such great chemistry, it's going to be a difficult situation not having him. … (Dickerson) did a great job for us last year. I feel good about the race."

The buzz at the track, however, was all about what it will be like having a 16-time Most Popular Driver spot for the driver most poised to break that record -- Junior has 11 awards of his own already collected.

"A lot of Most Popular Driver awards right there, like 27 or something like that," Earnhardt said of Elliott, whose son Chase Elliott drives the No. 9 entry for Earnhardt's JR Motorsports NASCAR Nationwide Series team. "We've got Bill Elliott of all people is going to fill in during practice. That is going to be pretty awesome."

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