By admin | March 5, 2010
By Richard Allen
So, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his Hendrick Motorsports team obviously have the qualifying thing down. On Friday, Junior grabbed the pole position for the Kobalt Tools 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. This will be the third time out of four races this season in which he will start from within the top-5.
In Daytona, car #88 started 2nd and last week in Las Vegas they qualified 4th. The only poor run they have had in time trials so far was in California where Junior lined up 27th on the starting grid.
The restrictor plate track of Daytona is a different animal from the 1.5- 2 mile ‘cookie cutter’ type tracks that make up such a big part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. At DIS Junior qualified 2nd and finished 2nd with a strong, late race charge.
However, the 4th place start in Vegas resulted in a mediocre 16th finishing result. In California, the #88 not only qualified poorly but had a broken axle to compound their troubles which led to a 32nd place finish.
The key this week in Atlanta for Junior and his team is to follow their great qualifying run with a solid finish. Of course, they would like to win the race. But they really need to prove they can run at the front of the pack all race long and post a strong finish at the end of the day.
Qualifying well will have served little good if the #88 car just fades back into the pack with the crew chief and driver providing more mid-race fodder for the television network via the team radio.
Now that this team has shown in all but one race that they know how to start at he front of the field, they need to prove they can finish at the front as well.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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