Junior To Make 500Th NASCAR Start
August 6, 2010 | 9:59 A.M. EST
But it's a milestone that kind of snuck up on Earnhardt.
"I didn't realize that I was approaching 500," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I take a lot of pride in what I've accomplished in these past 15 years or so. I'm proud of the two Nationwide championships, the wins in both series and having worked with a lot of talented people.
"I like that I'm able to do what I do for a living. I'm passionate about racing and it keeps me from having to get a real job."
Earnhardt's stats include 384 Sprint Cup starts and 115 in the Nationwide Series. He has compiled 18 Cup wins since his debut in the 2000 season and also has 23 Nationwide triumphs.
Adding to his win column Sunday may be a difficult task for Earnhardt, who has struggled of late. Recent disappointing showings have dropped him to 14th in the Sprint Cup point standings and he sits 129 points out of the final Chase transfer spot with five races to go.
Earnhardt's track record at the twisting 2.45-mile Watkins Glen road course isn't very stellar. Although he does have a couple of top five and three top-10 finishes in his Sprint Cup career at The Glen, he has an average finish of 22.6 in his last 10 starts.
Crew chief Lance McGrew will do his best to give Earnhardt a car capable of a good finish on Sunday but will need his driver's input as the race wears on to ensure the proper adjustments are made to the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
"Your driver doesn't walk you around every corner … like you would on an oval," McGrew said. "It's more fuel mileage and your driver reporting, for instance, 'I'm brake-hopping here' or 'I need forward bite into here.'
"You do what you can do. You are kind of limited because what you do to help a left-handed corner is going to hurt a right-handed corner. You are kind of limited once the race starts and what kind of adjustments you can make that will make a big difference on how the car drives. It normally comes down to speed and strategy."