The off-season may have flown by for some but Dale Earnhardt Jr. is ready to get back to work.
Earnhardt enjoyed his time away from NASCAR and used the break to get re-energized for the long season ahead that unofficially begins this week with Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway.
"The off season has been good," Earnhardt said during Thursday's break from testing at Daytona. "I've been able to relax a lot, and I've been looking forward to getting in the car. I really wasn't ready to get out of the car, and I've been asking (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) when we were going to test, when we're going to go to the racetrack just to be doing something instead of sitting around at home. We plan to test a little bit more than we did last year before the season starts, which I think will be good for our team.
"It's been good, though. I've been just enjoying the time off and really getting charged up and ready for the year to start."
After last winter's big shake-up that saw Letarte brought in to take the crew chief role for Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team it's been a relatively quiet off-season in terms of personnel moves. Although there have a few minor adjustments, basically Earnhardt will go to battle with the same crew that he wrked with in last season's effort that landed him a spot in the Chase.
That pleases Junior.
"We had a couple people move around," he explained. "I had a really, really good interior guy that went to work at RCR because it's a little closer to where he lives. A lot, actually. And we got a new guy who works out really good. A couple other positions like that, similar to that, that can really affect a team. Everybody's personalities have to mesh and everybody has to get along good. You get one guy in there that everybody doesn't like, then you've got a big problem, kind of a bruise over the entire season and can really bring a team down from the inside out.
"But I feel pretty good about the changes we've made. I believe in what Steve chooses when it comes to personnel, to put the team around him that he thinks he needs. So I'm excited about some of those changes that we've made."
Earnhardt is winless wince the 2008 season and would like nothing more than to finally end that drought with another win in the biggest race of the year when the Daytona 500 is held on February 26.
"Winning the 500 is the biggest race of the year," he said. "It's the greatest feeling. When it comes to winning single events, you can't beat it. A lot of effort goes into this race. Just like down here testing for three days, we don't really do it anywhere else. Same amount of work that you're seeing down here for three days, that's what's happening back at the shop with the engines for this race, for that whole Speed Weeks. The effort is quadruple when it comes to how much goes into the engines just for that race and the bodies on the cars just for that race.
"A lot goes into it for whatever reason, more than any other event. So it's a pretty big deal when you win."
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