Friday was a good day for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team at Phoenix Raceway.
First off, Earnhardt was seventh fastest in the day’s lone 85-minute practice session in advance of Sunday’s Camping World 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
He then followed that up by qualifying third behind only the Fords of pole-sitter Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.
The performance encouraged Earnhardt, who has now had two top-five qualifying efforts in the first four races of the season.
Last November, when Earnhardt was sidelined with a concussion, Alex Bowman put the No. 88 on the pole at Phoenix, something Earnhardt pointed out.
“The car has been good here for several trips,” said NASCAR’s 14-time Most Popular Driver. Alex got the pole here last year, so the car has had great speed and really happy to be able to do something with it, just a little short.”
Earnhardt said he was happy that he and the team have stepped it up a notch in qualifying.
“We were close (to winning the pole),” Earnhardt said. “It’s good to be there. I think we made the third round in three of the first four races. That is definitely an improvement for us over the last couple of years.”
And he should be good in Sunday’s Camping World 500.
Earnhardt has three victories at Phoenix, most recently in November 2015. He also has nine top-five finishes and has led 569 laps here.
Win or lose, though, one thing is for sure: Earnhardt’s Sam Bass-designed “FlashPoint” paint scheme will be easy to spot.