Volume II, Issue 10, Page 21

NEWS & ANALYSIS

Dale Jr. Tests with New Team

Hendrick Car Goes ‘Throwback’


     
The day after Dale Jr. lost a wheel in the Atlanta Motor Speedway race, he was in a new car with his new team. As part of NASCAR’s test for the Car Of Tomorrow (COT) for next year’s usage, Jr. got to try out his own Hendrick Chevy Impala SS for the first time.
 
To commemorate his first laps with Hendrick Motorsports, Jr. ran a "throwback" No. 5 All-Star Racing Chevrolet during the test. The Impala SS featured a red and white paint scheme identical to the first car campaigned by team owner Rick Hendrick in Cup-level competition. Then known as "All-Star Racing," Hendrick Motorsports fielded the car with driver Geoff Bodine in 1984.

The test also served to jump-start the ’08 season with future teammate Casey Mears testing his #25 National Guard/GMAC Chevy Impala. Jr, is still under contract to Dale Earnhardt Inc., so he could not run his ’08 colors or sponsor. But he was reunited with crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. who will be working the new #88 next year with Jr.

Noticeably absent were the Chevys of Hendrick cars #24 and #48. Their crew chiefs, Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus used the time to prepare for final NEXTEL Cup Series events.

Jr’s new boss Rick Hendrick was happy with Jr’s ‘throwback’ deal and said, "It's really exciting for me because that car got it all started. This was totally Dale Jr.'s idea. He loves the older stuff -- the history -- and he wanted to paint it up like our first car with All-Star Racing and City Chevrolet on it. It brings back some old memories, and I'm just honored that he wanted to do it. I can't wait to see that car on the track. His dad was one of the guys we talked to about driving the car, so it'll be pretty special to see the Earnhardt name on the roof."
Turning to the serious side of the test, Hendrick said, “It’s going to be really important. The sooner we can get Dale Jr. in one of our cars to see how it rides, how it drives, the power of the motor -- all of that is critical—the better. Tony Eury Jr. and the engineers, they've been working together already, but getting on the track and having everyone understand what Dale Jr. wants is important. Same with Alan (Gustafson) and Casey (Mears). They'll be working to build that chemistry on the radio and learning to make adjustments. When they (Nos. 5 and 25 teams) get back, they'll be able to share all that information with the other teams (Nos. 24 and 48). This is an important test for the No. 5 and the new No. 88, getting a jump on next year. For the organization, it's about learning as much as we can about the Impala SS on an intermediate track."

Dale Jr. was excited about the test and said, "Ever since our announcement, I've been looking forward to the day of driving a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. For the past two months we've been getting fitted for seats and sitting in cars, making sure all the measurements are right. That's just like dangling candy in front of a baby, because all I've wanted to do is fire the thing up and get it on the race track. I'll finally get to do that at the Atlanta test. I appreciate DEI and Hendrick Motorsports for the opportunity to test this car. I'm certainly dedicated to the rest of this season with DEI, but this allows us to get a start on our '08 plans."