For his final full-time season as a driver, NASCAR.com will offer an analytical preview on Dale Earnhardt Jr. ahead of every remaining Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Race: Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway
Date: Sunday, Sept. 17, 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Previous five results at Chicagoland: 12th, 11th, 35th, eighth, third
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Notable: The 1.5-mile Chicagoland oval has been hit or miss for Earnhardt during his career. In his first two visits to the speedway, Earnhardt rolled off two top-11 finishes. However, those were then followed by two finishes outside the top 20. Overall, Earnhardt has three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 15 starts at Chicagoland, including a 2005 victory. And in keeping with the hot or cold theme, Earnhardt has two DNFs at the track in addition to 123 laps led.
Memorable: In the midst of a rough 2005 season, Earnhardt arrived at Chicagoland in July looking for something to write home about. After starting 25th, crew chief Shane Hmiel, who had taken over the team just six races prior, knew the car handled better with clean air. Hmiel called for two tires on Earnhardt’s final pit stop, putting him in position to take the lead with 11 laps to go. Earnhardt then fended off a challenge from Brian Vickers and pulled away just enough that a charging and a dominant Matt Kenseth – who had four tires – was not able to catch him. “We got us a win! Yaahoo!” was the cry from Earnhardt as he took the checkered flag for the first time that season and at Chicagoland.
Quotable: “Chicago should be a good track for us. One of our teammates went out there and tested, so we’ve got some information that we can look at,” Earnhardt said in a team release. “[Crew chief] Greg [Ives] is going to be back. T-Mack [Travis Mack, last week’s interim crew chief] is still there as a car chief. I told all my guys at the end of the race last week that this is the team that Greg needs underneath of him to be successful. All of these guys stepped up a little bit and we need to be that way all year long. We should be able to do this going forward, at least that’s what I think we’re capable of, so we’re going to keep working hard for these last 10 races.”