Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought home his second win of the season at Pocono Raceway and cemented his spot in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. As his success continues, his confidence rises.
In the media center after the race, Earnhardt was asked if the 88 team was the new 48. He laughed and said, “Easy now.”
“They just come off of two straight wins, and everybody was about to crown him the champion. You know, two weeks before they were wondering what the hell was wrong with him, and then two weeks later he’s the best thing on the block,” he continued. “We just got to keep everything in perspective. Jimmie is an awesome teammate. We’re successful because of their success and vice versa. I think we really work well together.”
But, laughter aside, there was no doubt that Earnhardt is determined to stamp out his own identity when he said, “They’re the 48 and we’re the 88 and I don’t want to be the new 48. I want to be the new 88. We’ll definitely try to continue to work hard and try to win some more races and try to leave our own mark and not a mark similar to anyone else.”
The Sprint Cup Series is headed to Michigan International Speedway next week, where he has two previous victories in 2008 and 2012.
When questioned about the possibility of back-to-back wins, Earnhardt said, “That would be awesome. I haven’t done that since the Nationwide days back in ’98 or ’99. We won a couple there back to back, I think. That’s a really good feeling, puts you right on top of the world. A win gives you a lot of confidence, but you know and realize how difficult those are to come by and how competitive this garage is, but man, when you win two in a row, man, that sets you apart a bit from your competition. That would be a great thing for us.”
Despite the success Earnhardt and the No. 88 team has achieved this season; he doesn’t think they have reached their full potential.
“I think we have not peaked as a team performance-wise, but we’re certainly at our highest ceiling. We’re doing some of our best work certainly right now. We have a lot of passion and there’s a lot of emotion, considering this is Steve’s last year, and I think that also adds some drive and determination to the team to do as well as we can. So that can be dangerous, I think, for everyone else if we win.”
As Earnhardt and his crew chief Steve Letarte strive to make the most out of their last year working together, momentum is on their side and the possibilities are endless. Perhaps, more importantly, the two have formed a bond that has impacted Earnhardt both professionally and personally.
“We’ll continue to be such great friends after working together this year. I still have him as a big part of my life, and I think that’ll continue to positively affect me in whoever I work with in the future,” Earnhardt emphasized. “I’ll work hard to continue to maintain a great relationship with him because he has such a positive effect on me, and I still think even though we aren’t working together next year, throughout the rest of my career together, he can still have that effect on me and still do things for me that help me on Sunday even though he’s not there.”
This year may be Earnhardt’s best chance at capturing the elusive Championship trophy. He’s already referring to it as a “storybook” season and his fans can’t wait to see how this story ends.