While a lot of Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans are looking to Daytona International Speedway and the upcoming Coke Zero 400 as his best chance to win, in reality Pocono Raceway presents a golden opportunity for the third-generation driver to find Victory Lane again.
Here are five reasons Earnhardt could win Sunday’s Pocono 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1).
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He swept here in 2014
It was just three years ago when Earnhardt won both Pocono races. He is not far removed from winning here and in fact finished second in this race a year ago, one of four runner-up finishes he had in 18 starts last year.
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Earnhardt is consistent at Pocono
Per NASCAR’s Loop Data statistics, Earnhardt has the sixth-best driver rating among active drivers since 2005 at Pocono with a 93.9 average rating. The driver rating is a formula that combines wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes.
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The No. 88’s results have improved
After struggling early in the season, Earnhardt finished 10th in the Coca-Cola 600 two weeks ago and 11th at Dover last weekend, a result that could have been a top five had it not been for a late-race pit-road penalty.
“We were in the simulator this week working on Pocono,” Earnhardt said. “We’ve been working really, really hard the last three weeks. It’s been going great – the cars have gotten better in practice and we’re seeing some good improvements, so we’re going to keep grinding. We’re going in the right direction.”
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No Eagles car
OK, this one is admittedly a bit whimsical. Earnhardt, a diehard Washington Redskins fans, was supposed to have a Philadelphia Eagles paint scheme on his car this weekend as a promotion done in conjunction with sponsor Axalta’s All-Pro Teachers program. But the NFL nixed the scheme, so Earnhardt won’t have to race it.
The last seven Pocono races for Earnhardt have produced two victories, one runner-up finish, six top fives and an average finish of 3.86. Those are outstanding numbers and they show that even though the cars and the aero packages change here, Earnhardt is good at this track.