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Earnhardt's new team seeking familiarity as well as safety
Junior, mechanic reunited after meeting at a Car of Tomorrow test.
By BRANT JAMES
Published January 15, 2008
DAYTONA BEACH - Jim Jenkins' relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. began with an extended hand and a helmet at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"My name's Jim," he said in October at a Car of Tomorrow test, Earnhardt's first on-track duty for his soon-to-be team, Hendrick Motorsports.
"Junior," the driver said, reaching out his hand.
Reunited on Monday at Daytona International Speedway outside the No.88 Chevrolet were the driver and the man that assures his "driver comfort" and safety. Jenkins, a mechanic, must make sure Earnhardt's belts are cinched just right, his gloves and helmet and ear plugs are ready and there's no part loose enough to make his ride uncomfortable or dangerous. Earnhardt's job is refiring his career with NASCAR's top team.
"We don't know each other on a personal level yet, but it will come," Jenkins said. "He's real easy to work with, doesn't complain about much of anything. He's just ready to go."
Indeed he is.
"We're as pumped up as ever," said crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who left Dale Earnhardt Inc. in October to begin the Hendrick transition. "We can get the job done. It's just a matter of the people that surround me, and getting the right breaks and making the right calls during the year. I think if those things come together, I think we've got a shot at being in the Chase and winning the title."
The 2004 Daytona 500 winner was second in both sessions.
FIRST AND FOREMOST:Driver and NASCAR sage Jeff Burton on the value of the sport's biggest race - the Daytona 500 - being its first of the season:
"Preseason football bores me to death. I can't imagine sitting and watching a preseason NBA ball game. We just get right at it. I think there's something to be said for that. ... To me the Daytona 500 meaning so much, being the first race of the year, all the enthusiasm and excitement, that's something that can't be replicated by other sports."