Dale Earnhardt Jr.: After turning a disappointing qualifying position — 29th — into a Sprint Cup Series leading ninth top five finish at Kentucky, Dale Jr. has his sights set on a win at next week’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. If he can take the checkered flag next weekend, Earnhardt Jr. will pull off the rare feat of winning both races at Daytona this year, adding one more accolade in a year in which he passed up his fabled father in Daytona 500 victories.
In addition to his success on the track, Earnhardt Jr. has had an interesting season amid rumors that he may retire, racing go-karts with Charles Barkley, a radio interview in which he talked about the way Dale Sr. handled his first speeding ticket and a car fire during the Duck Commander 500.
“I didn’t have any answers for why we were struggling yesterday (in the qualifying round). Steve and the engineers got in the hauler and talked all night long, and all day today and put a great car underneath us. And the pit crew did an amazing job tonight. Those guys were gaining spots for me every stop. Even when we were taking four tires, we were beating a lot of guys off pit road. They’re just a great group and deserve a lot of credit, too.”
With wins at the Daytona 500 and the Pocono 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of five Sprint Cup drivers with two victories in the 2014 Sprint Cup Series. Earnhardt leads the other two-victory drivers in points — and is third in points overall behind Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson, with three wins, is the only Sprint Cup driver with more than two victories this year. Junior would love to join him at the front of the pack.
The last time Dale Jr. raced to Victory Lane more than twice in a season was 2004, when he took the checkered flag six times, according to a report in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
The president of Daytona International Speedway, Joie Chitwood III, sounded enthusiastic about the potential of Dale Earnhardt Jr. achieving the Daytona Double. Chitwood III had this to say going into this week’s Coke Zero 400:
“All the race tracks, media outlets and partners, when Dale Jr. is successful, everybody takes notice. Everybody pays attention and I think everybody enjoys part of that.”
What do you think? Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. pull off the Daytona Double in this week’s Coke Zero 400?