Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets favorite car "Amelia" back for Talladega
TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) The beloved car ''Amelia'' will be back at Talladega Superspeedway after Hendrick Motorsports rebuilt the Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to drive Sunday.
Earnhardt drove the car he named Amelia Earhart to four wins in six starts over a 13-month period. He was so confident in the car that he used it for the season-opening Daytona 500 rather than have his team build him a new one.
Earnhardt wrecked Amelia in February and thought the car that had never finished lower than third was gone forever, but was thrilled when crew chief Greg Ives was able to repair the car for Talladega.
''I think we've got a pretty good car; I don't really know for sure how good it is,'' Earnhardt said Friday. ''We did have to put a whole new front end on it, so I'm sure it's different one way or the other. I wouldn't expect it to be exactly the same. So, hopefully those guys improved it just a little bit more and we'll have a good race on Sunday.''
Earnhardt leads all active drivers with six Talladega wins and is the defending race winner. His late father holds the track record with 10 victories, and Earnhardt took time Friday to discuss how watching his father race at Daytona and Talladega helped him learn how to get around the superspeedways.
''Watching my dad, who was one of the best, I learned a tremendous amount because I solely watched him whereas, someone else who grew up around the sport may not have focused as much on one particular driver,'' Earnhardt said. ''All those things maybe helped me develop into maybe a better plate race car driver than the average guy.''
The late Dale Earnhardt was a seven-time NASCAR champion who died in an accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Friday would have marked his 65th birthday, a date his son learned of only after seeing social media posts celebrating his father.
''I don't look at the calendar on April 28th and go `Oh, tomorrow is Dad's birthday,''' Earnhardt said. ''I wake up in the morning and see something on social media and go `That's right, damn if it ain't the 29th.' It sneaks up on you. It's crazy to think of what he would have been like at 65 years old. You kind of had an idea he wouldn't have changed a whole lot had he lived a little bit longer, but at 65 and what would he have been like at 80 and all those things would be hard to imagine. It's awesome.
''One of the best things about it, and I've said it before, is that it's great that people still talk about him. That the sport, his fans, the media, that everybody still acknowledges who he was and what he meant. That is all I care about, that we don't ever forget just the impact that he had because I felt like he had so much influence.''