Earnhardts Hit The Road
January 3, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Still, today is going to be a learning experience for the father-son duo - along with teammate Andy Pilgrim - as they won’t be there to test their Winston Cup stock cars. Instead, they’ll be the factory Chevrolet Corvette that they'll use in the Feb. 3-4 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the season opener to the Grand American Road Racing Series.
"I've been racing here for many years, but according to Andy I've been taking the 'bypass' around the track," says Earnhardt. "This is going to be my first time taking the 'business' route through the speedway and I'm looking forward to it.
"Dale Jr. and I tested the Corvette at Sebring after our race in Atlanta. I came away very impressed, as did Dale Jr. It's a different type of car and takes some adjusting knowing the characteristics. We're coming in with the intentions of winning, so it's important we spend every lap possible getting ready for the race. This three-day test should be a good measuring stick for when we return in a few weeks."
The Earnhardts begin their three-day test with Pilgrim today, and the test will include a night session on Friday.
"With the Corvette, you have to be a lot more technical and professional with your shifting, your downshifting especially," Earnhardt Jr. says. "In a Winston Cup car, we can be a lot more rugged. With these cars, there's one right way to do things and 50 wrong ways, but the cars are a lot more forgiving in the corners if you overdrive them a bit.
"There's a lot more ability to recover from that. In a Winston Cup car, you end up in the marbles or off the track. These cars have quite a bit more braking ability, and you have a lot more torque to get you up out of the corners, but you have to be careful not to spin the rear tires."
Another big difference that the Earnhardts will have to adjust to is they won't be driving the fastest car on the 3.56-mile road course.
The Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, which will battle for the class honors in the GTS division, will be passed by faster SportsRacing Prototype and SportsRacing Prototype II competitors.
"I think I have a good idea what the mindset of this race is," Earnhardt Jr. says. "It's an endurance race. Obviously there are some very good road-course drivers that we're racing against. I would never fathom the ability to be able to out-run them man-to-man, so I think the best thing for me to do is be more conservative with the car and not tear it up much."