Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be able to defend his Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo victory after all.
Earnhardt Jr. will compete in Friday night's Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo NASCAR Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway, driving the No. 88 Navy "Accelerate Your Life" Chevrolet for his personally-owned team, JR Motorsports. He replaces Shane Huffman, who took over driving duties last August and compiled six top-10s and a pair of top fives in 28 races.
"Upon a midseason evaluation of the performance of this race team, we decided we needed to make a change, and right now we have a window to do that," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Because of the short notice, I am going to drive the Navy car Friday night at Daytona. It's a big race for us. We are carrying a special Navy SEALs paint scheme on the car, so we want to make sure we give it a good run for the Navy and all our sponsors and employees."
Earnhardt Jr. said he does not intend to drive the car beyond this weekend, although a new full-time driver has yet to be determined. This weekend's interim role will give Earnhardt Jr. the opportunity to compete in equipment solely his own for the first time. He is the defending race winner of the Winn-Dixie 250, as he led 88 of 103 laps en route to a dominating victory in a Dale Earnhardt Inc.-prepared Chevrolet last year.
"I have always wanted to drive my own car, but I'm doing this to give us time to evaluate our options and see who we want to put in the car for the rest of the season," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I will get with my people at JR Motorsports, and hopefully we will have a new driver named in the very near future."
JR Motorsports has fielded the No. 88 Busch Series entry full time since 2006. In a temporary role much like the one Earnhardt Jr. is inheriting, Robby Gordon earned the team's best finish of third at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 19, 2006. In 18 races this season, the Navy team has one top-five finish and four top 10s. Huffman is currently 13th in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings.
Earnhardt Jr. is a two-time champion in the NASCAR Busch Series, earning back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999. He has 22 total victories in the Busch Series, which ties him with Sam Ard and Tommy Ellis for seventh on the all-time wins list. Five of his Busch victories have come at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.
For tickets to Friday’s Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo Busch Series race, visit www.racetickets.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.