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NASCAR's Rick Hendrick says Earnhardt is Job #1

November 24, 2009 | 12:14 pm

After three of his four of his four drivers finished 1-2-3 in this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, team owner Rick Hendrick says his focus is on the one driver still lagging behind: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet.


"My priority now is the 88 team,” Hendrick told reporters on a conference call today. Earnhardt, NASCAR’s most popular driver, is “my primary focus here starting this week, starting Monday, really,” Hendrick said.

Hendrick's Jimmie Johnson won a record fourth consecutive Cup championship Sunday, and he was followed in the standings by teammates Mark Martin and four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

Johnson  also won seven races, Martin had five wins and Gordon won once.

But Earnhardt struggled all season, finishing 25th in the standings. Despite getting a new crew chief mid-season, Earnhardt did not win a race, did not earn a pole position and had only five top-10 finishes in 36 races.

"We just got to be better all the way around,” Hendrick said. “I think when we do that, when Dale sees that we’ve stepped up in a lot of areas, it will give him the confidence he needs.”

--Jim Peltz

Photo: Dale Earnhardt Jr. during qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images