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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.



Related Pictures

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Dale Earnhardt Jr - Hendrick Motorsport   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane with team owner Dale Earnhardt jr. after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship following his fifth place finish in the DAV 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 8, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Chase, qualified for 15th position Friday, November 7, 2014 for Sunday`s final Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Johnson won the NASCAR race last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Chase, finished in 2nd place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Red Vest Chevrolet SS finished in 1st place Sunday, November 2, 2014 in the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase continues next week at Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet SS, races to his first place win Sunday, November 2, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The Eliminator 8 phase of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase, which Johnson is not in, continues next week at Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, November 2, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The Eliminator 8 phase of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase, which Johnson is not in, continues next week at Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, November 2, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The Eliminator 8 phase of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase, which Johnson is not in, continues next week at Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Red Vest Chevrolet, celebrates with Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage and AAA VIP Employee Recognition Winner David Tiger with pistols in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Red Vest Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Red Vest Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Red Vest Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Red Vest Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Red Vest Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Red Vest Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet SS qualified for third position Friday, October 31, 2014 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Johnson is shown with his crew chief, Chad Knaus. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS celebrates his 4th victory of the season with Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motor Sports, and his girlfriend, Amy Reimann, after winning Sunday, October 26, 2014 the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. This is the 10th anniversary of a Hendrick Motorsports plane crash which killed 10 in Martinsville. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 4th win of the season with his crew Sunday, October 26, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. This was also Earnhardt, Jr.`s first career win at Martinsville. The Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase, which Earnhardt, Jr. is not a contender, continues next week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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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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