It wasn't hard to spot the happiest guy at Sonoma Raceway late Friday afternoon. His name was Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he was thrilled to set the fast time in the final Happy Hour practice for Sunday's Save Mart/Toyota 350.
As a restrictor-plate racer, Earnhardt is one of, if not the, best in the business. Road courses, not so much. In 32 career road-course starts, Earnhardt has just three top fives, with a best of third at Sonoma in 2011.
He will be the first to tell you he doesn't like road racing. And that's why he was so happy to be a top the board on Friday.
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"Right off the truck, man, we were really fast," said Earnhardt, who was fourth in the first practice. "Throughout the whole first practice we did a lot of race trim. The car was incredibly quick. I have never had a car this good here."
Earnhardt credited crew chief Greg Ives with nailing the setup on the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
"When Greg and those guys unloaded the car we had run pretty good here the last couple of years," said Earnhardt. "So, we just kind of kept going in the same direction set-up wise and it has been helping."
The next step for Earnhardt is qualifying, which takes place today at 2:15 p.m. ET on FS1.
"I'm not going to say we've got the pole, because we didn't get to see what everybody has, but some of those guys will get up there and put some laps down," said Earnhardt. "We will just try to get in that top 10, top-five and get a good pit selection and have a good race on Sunday."
Asked if he's capable of winning on Sunday, Earnhardt said it will come down to having a mistake-free race.
"Well, we will obviously need some luck," he said. "We have been quick here before and we definitely have the racecar that can win the race. If we have everything go our way on pit road and I don't make too many mistakes out on the race track we should be in good shape.
"I don't think I'm terrible at road courses, but I'm definitely not the best guy here. Our car is amazing."