Earnhardt Jr. not expecting free pass at Hendrick Motorsports

Updated: January 15, 2008, 7:11 PM ET

AP Photo/Reinhold Matay

Junior: "I'm not the son of the boss any more. My job now is to stay out of Rick Hendrick's office."

'We'll Win Some Races'

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- After two days in the No. 88 Chevy, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he's right where he hoped to be with his new beginning at Hendrick Motorsports.

But Earnhardt wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. He didn't go to Hendrick to make things easy. He went to Hendrick Motorsports to make things hard.

"In the past, I didn't have to worry about my job security, but I've got to worry about that now," he said.

A possible exaggeration, but Earnhardt's point is he has no excuses now if he doesn't win races. And he doesn't have his family name to fall back on as he did at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

"Being the son of the guy who built the place, you can get away with a few more things than most guys," Earnhardt said. "I'm not the son of the boss any more. My job now is to stay out of Rick Hendrick's office."

Earnhardt emphasized again what a great relationship he has with Hendrick, but he also knows everyone is watching and waiting to see how he does with Sprint Cup's top team.

"When I made this decision, I knew what the expectations would be," he said. "I'm a high-profile driver on a high-profile team. I think I'm as prepared as anybody could be for this situation. And it's sort of refreshing not to have that safety net."

Earnhardt led the morning test session Tuesday with a lap at 185.820 mph. He was 10th in the first drafting practice Tuesday afternoon.

Tony Eury Jr., Earnhardt's crew chief, said Monday that he thought they could win four races this season. Earnhardt didn't put a number on it.

"I don't want to sit here and guess how many races we'll win," he said. "We'll win some races, and I expect to win soon. I'm a good driver with a good team. If we don't make mistakes on Sundays, we should have great finishes and win some races."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Newman Fastest In Drafting Practice

Ryan Newman led the first drafting practice Tuesday afternoon with a lap at 188.013 mph. in the No. 12 Dodge. DEI drivers Regan Smith and Paul Menard owned the next two spots on the speed chart.

Tony Stewart was the fastest Toyota at 187.332 mph, the sixth-fastest lap in the big pack of cars.

Jamie McMurray probably had the most disappointing afternoon. He was 44th in the 26A Ford and 49th in the 26B Fusion.



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Tony & Zippy Show


Tony Stewart said he and crew chief Greg Zipadelli are together until the end. They now have the longest driver-crew chief relationship in Sprint Cup, beginning their ninth season as a Cup duo.

"I think we're at the point now where we're not going to do something [in racing] away from each other," Stewart said. "If one of us decides to retire, the other one is going along with him. If he says, 'I'm done. I'm going to so do something different,' that's probably when I'll say I'm ready to do something different, and vice versa."

That was a heartfelt answer, but at times, Stewart was his usual cynical self when he spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon. He was asked what it would mean to him to win the 50th edition of the Daytona 500.

"The same as it would have meant to win the 49th last year," he said.

He also was asked what has changed with the Toyota cars, which have posted some fast laps in testing.

"I don't know," he said. "I just started working for them yesterday."

Stewart later was asked if showing some personality is a negative these days in NASCAR.

"I don't think it's worth it," he said. "Nine out of 10 people you deal with on a weekly basis know what you mean. But that 10th person doesn't get it or is trying to find an angle to make it the way they want it to come out.

"So it's not worth it. It's a lot easier to just be kind of plain Jane and know when you leave the track Sunday night you don't have to work Monday and Tuesday putting out fires."