Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t overly concerned about the new aerodynamic rules package that NASCAR will implement for next Saturday’s (July 11) race at Kentucky Speedway.
“I don’t think things are going to look a lot different, as far as the race goes,” Earnhardt said Wednesday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s The Morning Drive. “I think you can put about any spoiler on the car, change the aerodynamics however you want, the race is going to look similar.
“That’s a rough racetrack, real kind of slick, old asphalt. So the cars are definitely going to get spread out at some point or other. NASCAR wants to have close racing, the fans want to see close racing, but it’s inevitable at some point in the race that those cars are going to get away from each other and you’re not going to get semi-pack racing throughout the entire event.
“This new package is probably going to make the cars harder to drive. Taking the downforce away definitely makes the cars more challenging to drive. I think that’s more appealing to the fans, that the car is harder, that it’s more of a challenge, that it’s a tougher challenge to get the victory when the car isn’t driving so good.
“Maybe we’ll move around and use up more racetrack trying to find grip, so that’ll be interesting to me if the groove widens out there. We’ll see how it goes. I know they went to Darlington to test this same package with the idea that it may be used there as well. From what I understand, it wasn’t a terrible test overall, and we’ll see what they decide, whether they want to run that package again at Darlington or not.”
Earnhardt said putting in a new rules package in the course of a season, is nothing new to the sport.
“I think it’s nice that (NASCAR is) trying things, I think it’s good that they’re open-minded to make this kind of a change in the middle of a season,” Earnhardt said. “It’s not unprecedented. Ten years ago, they would change the spoiler height or the front valance height in the middle of the season.
“They would change it on one make one week and change it on another make the next week to try to even the competition. So this isn’t really unprecedented for them to make this kind of a rule change or do a one-off package. So, I applaud NASCAR for trying to make things better.”
As for racing this weekend at Daytona, Earnhardt has the best finishing average of any active driver there (13.065).
“Every time we show up at Daytona or Talladega, you feel you’ve got a chance to win,” Earnhardt said. “You just have to make the moves. And sometimes you’re not going to make them the right way.
“You can’t expect every decision you make out there in those plate races is going to be the right one. And late in the race, when you make the wrong one, it’s going to cost you. And someone’s going to make the right one and they’re going to win the race.
“That’s happened a few times, more often than not. But the confidence is still there, especially after how we ran at Talladega, that we can go into Daytona and run well. … We’ve just got to go out there and try to lead every lap and be up front, because that’s where you want to be when the race comes down to the last few laps. You want to be in the lead.”
Surprisingly, racing at Daytona isn’t as physically fatiguing as other tracks, Earnhardt said.
“It is a bit of a chess match, moving the pieces one at a time, trying to take away other people’s opportunities and present more opportunities for yourself,” he said. “It definitely is not as much of a physical race as we run on most weekends like Bristol, Darlington and the road courses.
“It’s definitely more a mental challenge and you’re definitely tired mentally when the race is over. But if you’re in victory circle, it’s definitely worth it.”