posted on Aug, 18 2004 @ 04:27 PM
Now that his burns are healing and the pain is becoming less each week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is able to turn full attention on building some momentum
for the rest of the NASCAR season.
Earnhardt, burned on the legs in a sports car crash on July 18 in Sonoma, California, was focused on recovery for several weeks. He used a relief
driver at both Loudon, New Hampshire, and Pocono, but drove the entire races at Indianapolis and on the road course at Watkins Glen.
More important, those last two races showed the team's midseason slump may be over.
If not for a flat tire at the end of the race, Earnhardt was on to the way to a top 10 at Indy. And despite the discomfort of having to use the clutch
and brake throughout the race at The Glen, he drove to a solid fifth-place finish - his first top-five in five races.
"It's gut-check time and the team is stepping up," said Earnhardt, who goes into Sunday's GFS Marketplace 400 at the Michigan track third in the
standings, just 128 points out of first.
"We're not where we need to be, but I get the feeling we're heading that direction," he added.
Earnhardt finished a disappointing 21st in the June Michigan race, but the DEI team tested the No. 8 Chevrolet at the track for two days last week.
"We put spring rubbers in to try to make the car turn better. We took them out. We moved them from the back to the front. We took two tires. We did it
all," Earnhardt said. "When you do all that and it's still slow, then you know it's time to go test."