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Earnhardt optimistic for 2010

Dale Earnhardt Jr looks ahead to the 2010 NASCAR season with optimism after difficult 2009
Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he has noticed a change in the culture at the Hendrick Motorsports race shop his #88 team shares with the #5 of Mark Martin - and that my bode well for improved performance in 2010.

From Earnhardt's point of view, the catalyst for the change was the naming of Lance McGrew as his full-time crew chief at the end of the 2009 season. In May,

McGrew had replaced Earnhardt's cousin, Tony Eury Jr., as interim crew chief.

"When he (McGrew) was able to solidify his position, and we could move forward knowing this was the deal - this is how it is - everybody sort of wrapped their minds and beliefs and trusts into that and around that, and we could sort of build back some confidence and some trust and belief in the team," Earnhardt said Friday night at the Preseason Thunder Fan Fest at Daytona International Speedway.

A shifting of in-shop personnel has created a greater sense of cooperation between the two teams.

"When I say the culture, that's kind of what I mean, in the two cars and the people that are really intertwined between the two teams - kind of getting them all working and believing again in the #88 is what I think has changed a lot," Earnhardt said.

Martin, who finished second to Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship standings last year, doesn't think Earnhardt's performance needs to improve that much, if he can reverse the ill fortune that derailed promising runs in a number of races last year.

"If they only make minor progress in the performance side, and they have the opposite kind of racing luck that they had, they will have a Chase-making and very, very, very respectable season," Martin said. "In other words, they don't have to make a huge jump in performance, if they can just get that monkey off their back.

"They ran better than the #5 car in numerous races, but nobody really noticed, because they got wrecked, or something broke. They had a lot of things happen and go wrong for them when they were faster than we were in the #5 car."

Team-mate Jeff Gordon believes confidence is the key to a turnaround for Earnhardt, who enters the season on a 57-race winless streak.

"It doesn't take much to get off track," Gordon said. "I mean, it's so competitive out there. And I know that sometimes it looks like they're way off, but I don't think they're off as far as people think. I think it just is going to a take a fresh start - a few things.



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Dale Earnhardt Jr - Hendrick Motorsport   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Jimmy John`s Freaky Fast 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Jimmy John`s Freaky Fast 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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(Back Row L - R) Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Kelloggs/Frosted Flakes Ford, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Catepillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Madison Martin, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Insurance Chevrolet, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Gwaltney Ford, (Front Row L- R) Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Call Before You Dig Ford, AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Bush`s Beans Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose with the Sprint Cup Trophy after qualifying for the Chase  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by his Hendrik Motor Sports teammates Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Toughbook Chevrolet SS (left), Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS (center) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS (right) after his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne joins Gordon, Johnson, and Earnhardt Jr. in the Chase. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase.  (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Nancy J. Hess - Unregistered

January 23, 2010 9:19 PM

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is my #1 driver! My husband is always for Jimmie Johnson. Every race we have a bet to see who will be doing the dishes, this year my husband wll be having dishwater hands. GOOD LUCK to DALE JR. & THE #88 TEAM! I am behind you 100%!

Carol R. Beck - Unregistered

January 22, 2010 3:52 PM

Win, lose, or draw I will always cheer for Dale Jr. I have liked him since I started watching NASCAR in 2001. There is something about him that is very appealing to people....he comes across as very genuine and down to earth. I would love to meet him in person someday. We are all waiting to see him get back to his winning ways and prowess on the track (especially at Talladega). Junior I wish you the very best of luck in 2010! Stay focused and keep your eye on the prize.



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