POINTS REPORT: Dale Earnhardt Jr. took runner-up honors last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and retains his lead atop the driver standings. This is the first time Earnhardt has led the standings three weeks in a row to open the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
STRONG START: Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, is off to the best start of his Sprint Cup career. He is averaging a finish of 1.7 after three races this season, which leads the competition. He also has spent a league-best 752 laps inside the top 15 (96.5 percent).
AT BRISTOL: In 28 Sprint Cup starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has scored one win, seven top-five finishes and 14 top-10s. The 39-year-old driver has an average finishing position of 11.5 and has completed 98.9 percent of all laps he’s attempted (13,865 of 14,013 total) at the short track. He has led 790 laps at the 0.533-mile oval.
PERSONAL BEST: Earnhardt’s 11.5 average finish at Bristol is a personal best for the driver in the Sprint Cup Series. In the last 24 races there, Earnhardt has finished 11th or better 17 times.
BEST AVERAGE FINISH: According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, Earnhardt has the best average finish among all drivers in the last 18 Cup races at Bristol. Earnhardt, who recorded 10 top-10s during that timeframe, has an average finish of 9.7 and is one of two drivers with an average finish in the top 10 during that span.
DRIVER RATING: Earnhardt ranks 10th in the driver rating category at Bristol Motor Speedway with a score of 89.3, according to loop data. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The driver rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.
CHASSIS CHOICE: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-745. Earnhardt most recently raced this chassis to a second-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway last September.
HENDRICK AT BRISTOL: In 60 Cup events (191 starts) at Bristol, Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins, 48 top-five finishes, 87 top-10s and 11 pole positions. Jeff Gordon is tied for first among active drivers with five wins at the track, while Kasey Kahne most recently won this race for the organization in March 2013.
SHORT TRACK POWER: Among active drivers at tracks less than one mile in length, Hendrick Motorsports ranks atop the competition in wins and laps led; Gordon is first in both categories with 16 victories and 8,084 laps led. Jimmie Johnson ranks second in both categories with 12 wins and 3,656 laps led.
HENDRICK IN 2014: Earnhardt and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates collectively are averaging a 7.5 finish in the first three Sprint Cup contests. The Hendrick Motorsports quartet most recently finished inside the top nine at Las Vegas: Earnhardt (second), Johnson (sixth), Kahne (eighth) and Gordon (ninth).
DALE EARNHARDT JR., DRIVER, NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS (ON THE TEAM’S STRONG START TO THE SEASON.): “This is a good start to the season for sure. Yeah, the confidence is up there. When we first got together we’d run our guts out to run in the top 15. Then the next year we’d run our guts out to run in the top 10, and you wondered when you’d get up to fifth and start running in the top 5 regularly. We started doing that last year, and so our team keeps stepping up this ladder. It just makes total sense to me how that process has went, having lived it and having seen the progression. So the sky’s the limit for us, and if we are smart and keep our composure and don’t get foolish and don’t get too proud of ourselves, just keep it in perspective, we’ve got a great opportunity this year to be this competitive every week.”