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Chase Elliott Nearly Convinces Dale Earnhardt Jr to Completely Go Back on His Beliefs

Published 04/17/2024, 2:29 AM EDT

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Why does NASCAR have practice sessions? It’s to improve the car and make changes. But more importantly, it’s for drivers – especially rookies – to learn the track and how their car reacts to it. So what would happen if NASCAR limits these sessions to only 20 minutes? Well, that’s precisely what’s happened. As Brad Keselowski shared his thoughts, Dale Earnhardt Jr agreed with him, only to seemingly change his stance to something completely opposite.

Keselowski advocates for longer practice sessions, pointing out that teams are stuck relying on sim tech because they’re not getting enough real track time. And after some team owners hinted to the press off the record that they’re open to more practice sessions, he said, “I haven’t seen how we’ve saved any money getting rid of practice, not from a team perspective. It’s hard for me to understand the value proposition today to not have practice.” Dale Earnhardt Jr chimed in by sharing the same sentiment. But when Chase Elliott joined the conversation, Junior rethought his stance.

What did Chase Elliott say to get Dale Earnhardt Jr on the same page as him?

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On Dale Jr Download, the motorsport veteran made his case for longer practices. “Teams might have saved money by not practicing. But they spent that money somewhere else. If a team has a dollar to race on, they’re going to spend that dollar. All of it. If you save some money here and save some money there, they’re still going to find a way to spend that dollar.” It’s like that episode of The Office where they have a budget surplus. But in this case, They can’t help themselves.”

Junior continued, “If you put practice back in, there may be a  few complainers, but they’ll find a way to make it work. They’ll find a way to save elsewhere to afford that practice expense. To say that we’re not practicing to save money is not true; it’s not true.He pointed out that more practice could help rookie drivers get a better feel for the track and their cars. But when he brought up the topic with Chase Elliott, Elliott leaned towards keeping the practice sessions short. Despite being part of a high-powered team like HMS that can make quick adjustments, he didn’t see the need for extended practice.

Elliott explained, “I think we have enough practice. I certainly can understand their perspective on guys either running a part-time schedule or people that are running maybe full-time in Xfinity. But when I look at the whole argument, I look at short tracks across the country. There are dirt track races every Friday and Saturday night, and they get literally five laps of hot laps, and then they run the race.” Elliott then compared both situations.

“So, I’m like, ‘We’re supposed to be professionals, and we’re supposed to be at the top of our class. Why should we get an hour and a half when people that are trying to come up through the ranks only get five laps before the race?’” That made Dale Earnhardt Jr look at things from Elliott’s perspective and got him thinking differently. He laughed and admitted, “Yeah! Hey, I like it. You’re convincing me to change my opinion.”

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But it’s not just Chase Elliott who thinks short practice sessions cut it. Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Michael McDowell feel the same, although their reasons differ from Elliott’s take.

Stenhouse Jr and McDowell see things a bit differently from Dale Jr and Keselowski

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While Chase Elliott argues that top Cup drivers should be able to handle limited practice because they’re supposed to be the best of the best, Stenhouse and McDowell worry that more practice mainly helps the big teams. Stenhouse pointed out that if NASCAR extends practice times, the larger teams with their multiple cars can explore different strategies and gather tons of data, something not all teams can do.

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He believes the short 20-minute sessions prevent these teams from fully exploiting their resources, which slightly levels the playing field. McDowell agrees, emphasizing that longer sessions allow wealthier teams to perfect their setups with extensive back-end support. “I think no practice for us or the limited practice for us has been a huge help keeping us beating a few more cars than we would on a given weekend,” he added.

Well, whose camp are you in? Are you all for Keselowski’s push for more track time, or do you side with Elliott’s take on professional readiness?

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

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Neha Dwivedi is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As a journalist, she religiously believes in the power of research, which allows her readers to dive deep into her stories and experience the detailed nuances of the sport like never before. Being proficient with Core Sport and Live Event Coverage, she has written multiple copies on the top entities of Stock Car Racing, like Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Tony Stewart.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta