|Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, will be available to members of the media on Friday, Nov. 10, at 10 a.m. local time in the Phoenix International Raceway media center.
MOST RECENT WIN: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Phoenix International Raceway in November 2015 after a rain-shortened event. The wet weather didn’t put a damper on Earnhardt, who led 22 laps en route to his 26th career NASCAR Cup Series victory and his third at the track. The 43-year-old driver earned his first two Phoenix wins back-to-back, going to Victory Lane in November 2003 and November 2004 when the one-mile tri-oval hosted one Cup event per season. By virtue of his three wins, Earnhardt ranks third on the all-time wins list at Phoenix behind Kevin Harvick (eight) and teammate Jimmie Johnson (four).
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Earnhardt, a three-time winner at Phoenix, has experienced a resurgence lately at the short track. In his last eight races at the facility, the driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS has earned one win, five top-five finishes and six top-10s. The only one of those eight events in which he finished outside of the top 15 was when the series visited the short track in March 2015 and a blown right-rear tire ended his day on Lap 180. Earnhardt is ranked 11th among all active competitors with a driver rating of 88.6 from 2005-2017. 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. The maximum a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. He ranks fourth among his competitors for completing the most green-flag passes since 2005 with 977, fifth in fastest laps run with 278 and seventh in laps led with 259.
VISITING KIMMEL: Before he makes his way to Phoenix, Earnhardt will stop in Los Angeles to appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Thursday, Nov. 9. “Jimmy Kimmel Live” airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET, but check your local listings for details. Actor Josh Hutcherson and musical guest Dan Auerbach are also scheduled to join Earnhardt on Thursday’s show. It won’t be Earnhardt’s first visit – the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS has made multiple appearances on Kimmel’s late-night talk show.
NATIONWIDE IS ON HIS SIDE: The weekend’s event at Phoenix marks Nationwide’s final primary paint scheme with Earnhardt on the No. 88 Chevy, highlighting a very successful partnership. In September 2014, Nationwide announced an agreement with Hendrick Motorsports to become the majority primary sponsor for Earnhardt and the No. 88 Chevrolet for 21 races in each of the 2015-2017 seasons, although the partnership began well before that. Nationwide and Earnhardt officially teamed up in 2009, but it was a connection a long time in the making. The partnership was an extension of his family’s longtime relationship with Nationwide off the track – the Earnhardts have trusted Nationwide for their insurance needs for more than 35 years. Earnhardt continued that with his own 25-year relationship, trusting Nationwide to protect everything from his cars to his house to his business and even his dog, Gus. To honor and celebrate Earnhardt’s Cup career, Nationwide released a touching commercial spot last week that can be seen here.
GRAY GLOVES: Earnhardt will wear his gray-accented gloves again for the Phoenix and Homestead races to close out the month of November, raising awareness for diabetes. Through the Dale Jr. Foundation’s Driven to Give Gloves program, his race-worn gloves will be auctioned off to raise funds for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s clinical and research programs. Nationwide Children’s is America’s largest pediatric hospital and research center with all care provided regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
PATIENT CHAMPION J.R. CURRY: Additionally, through The Dale Jr. Foundation’s Driven to Give Gloves program, 10-year-old John Roger (J.R.) Curry will have his name featured above the passenger door of Earnhardt’s No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS at Phoenix. J.R. was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 2 and has received care through the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. J.R. started out with four shots and at least 10 finger pokes a day – that’s 1,460 shots and 3,650 finger pokes in a year – and had a tough time adjusting to his condition in the beginning, but he eventually got used to the process and became accustomed to the needles. He recently switched to a pump, which gives him a lot more freedom and his parents are able to monitor the readings. J.R. doesn’t let his diabetes stop him from doing what he loves – he plays soccer, baseball, basketball and is even a race car driver.
HOME TRACK: Phoenix International Raceway is the home track for No. 88 jackman Nick Covey, who grew up in Glendale, Arizona. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2009 and has been a member of the No. 88 team for six years. Covey played football for the University of Nebraska, where he was a linebacker from 2005 to 2009. Away from the racetrack, he says his focus is on his wife and his children, who play baseball.