Dale Jr.: 'We can still try to get some wins'
August 26, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows he and his team will be in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he doesn't plan to coast through the two remaining races before the Chase begins.
"We can still try to get some wins," Earnhardt Jr. said Tuesday during a break in testing at Martinsville Speedway. "Those three bonus points for a win going into the Chase, they didn't change that, did they?
"We'd like to get some more bonus points if we can. We had a real strong car Saturday night (at Bristol), but anytime you don't finish well you want to kind of re-assert yourself and get the team’s confidence to where it needs to be going into the most important time of the season. So we're going to run as hard as we can."
Earnhardt Jr. and his No. 88 team will roll into Atlanta, site of Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET), second in points and looking for their fourth win of the season. His 39th-place finish at Bristol was his second worst of the season, and was the result of damage from an incident that began with contact between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.
"Atlanta is a track that I love to race on," he said. "We haven't been there since we changed the rule package and I'm excited to see how that changes the style of racing we have there, where the line's going to be, where the speed's going to be.
"We're taking a brand new car there, so … it will be updated with all the latest and greatest and see what kind of speed we have."
Earnhardt Jr. is one of 12 drivers with one or more wins this season, thus all but guaranteed a spot in the 16-team Chase field. Others are still hopeful, although their opportunities are dwindling.
"You have to imagine that if you're outside that window of making the Chase, those guys are going to have to gamble. They've got to," he said.
"You've got to try. So you might see some guys do some things that they typically wouldn't do. It's all going to be on pit road. I don't see anybody doing … anything crazy out on the race track … but everybody's going to run hard. I think the racing may remind you of kind of what we saw at Texas between Brad (Keselowski) and Jimmie (Johnson) when Brad won his championship (in 2012). They had a hell of a race there on that last restart. We’re probably going to see some action like that. I hope we do; I think the fans deserve it. It will be a lot of fun seeing some of these guys trying to get their spot in the Chase.
"… If you’re at Richmond and one of those guys not locked in and your chances are not looking that great, you've got to do something. It will be interesting to see how far these guys are willing to go to make something happen."
All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers – Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne – took part in Tuesday’s test at Martinsville. Gordon and Johnson have a combined 16 wins on the flat, 0.526-mile track.
Earnhardt Jr., who has 11 top-fives here, and Kahne are still looking for their first victory at the track. All four teams are scheduled to return for additional testing on Wednesday.
Martinsville is the only short track among the 10 stops that make up the Chase, and a place where "you can get yourself into some trouble if you're not careful," Earnhardt Jr. said.
"I've had a lot of good runs, just haven't ever won here. This is one of those places that has a lot of history and it would mean the world for me to win here. We've had some cars that have run well, finished in top five several times, just never been that guy.
"We're down here trying to find that extra little bit to give us a little bit more dominant of a race car and hopefully give us the edge we will need to come out of here with a win.
"We've always had competitive cars, top-five, top-10 cars, just never really had that car that was impressive over the rest of the field, that had what it takes to win here."