HAMPTON, Ga. — Story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell — Jonathan Ferry/Getty Images North America photo —
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants another win at Atlanta Motor Speedway — and he wants it this weekend in Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, the second stop on the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Sprint Cup Series schedule.
Earnhardt Jr.’s one and only triumph at the Hampton, Ga. track came in 2004, driving the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc. after he led 55 of 325 laps.
In 28 starts at Atlanta, the Kannapolis, N.C. driver has scored nine top-five finishes, 13 top-10 finishes and two Coors Light Pole awards.
This weekend’s race, “June Bug” is also hoping to measure up the competition more, and see where everyone stands after the three month offseason, which ended with last weekend’s 58th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (a crapshoot event), the season-opening race for the Sprint Cup Series.
“It’s going to be a whole new ballgame. Everybody is wondering where everybody is after the offseason,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Every year you kind of have to get another measure of your competition because everybody kind of gets a little better in the offseason, so we’ll see how that all works out once we get to the next couple of tracks”
“Daytona Speedweeks has always been a little bit different – it’s not a true measuring stick of what the rest of the season might look like or who might be the dominant team.”
Additionally, the new base rules package will debut at Atlanta — a change that was based off low-downforce package at Kentucky Speedway and Darlington Raceway in 2015.
Earnhardt Jr., 41, is one of many drivers excited to see how the new adjustment fares at the next two 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta and Las Vegas Motor Speedway) on the schedule.
“I’m looking forward to Atlanta. I think the whole series is looking forward to going to Vegas, Atlanta and all of those places with this new package,” Earnhardt Jr. said.
Entering this weekend’s event, Earnhardt Jr. is coming off a disappointing finish in ‘The Great American Race’ at Daytona — he crashed out on lap 169 (while running in the top five) and dropped to a heartbreaking 36th place result in his No. 88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet.
“Sure hate letting everyone down today. We struggled with handling the whole race. Just busted my butt trying to make somethings happen,” Junior said.
Dwelling on the past is not on the to-do list however, for Junior or Hendrick Motorsports. Earnhardt is already prepped and gearing up for what he hopes to be his second win at the bumpy 1.54-mile track; which would guarantee him a spot on the 2016 Chase Grid.
Earnhardt’s quest at a second Atlanta victory will take the green flag at 1:00 p.m. Eastern in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on Sunday, with coverage on FOX, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
About the Writer
Marshall Gabell is the Mid-Atlantic Correspondent for Race Chaser Online, and was also formerly the public relations director for NASCAR Next member Austin Hill. Gabell is currently attending Stephen Decatur High School in Ocean City, Md., completing his sophomore year. He is just 15 years old.
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