NASCAR: Dale Jr. expects even more performance in 2015

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One of the biggest stories in 2014 was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s best season in a decade, with four wins including the Daytona 500 and a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship challenge for most of the year.

Yet even as longtime crew chief Steve Letarte heads to the NBC Sports broadcast booth next year, Earnhardt expects an uptick in performance with Letarte’s replacement, Greg Ives.

“My expectations are to perfrom at a higher level,” Earnhardt told FOX Sports’ Darrell Waltrip during a 2015 preview special on Sunday.

“We have everything from Steve still intact. Having a new crew chief with Greg means new ideas. We expect to improve as a team.”

Earnhardt noted that with Ives’ recent experience in the XFINITY (then-Nationwide) Series, his work on those cars will translate better ahead of next year’s rule changes coming to the Cup level.

Reduced horsepower coming next season is probably the biggest change.

“The way the rule changes are coming about, that goes into Greg’s wheelhouse,” Earnhardt explained. “He’s worked on cars with this type of horsepower.

“We did a test a month or so ago, and everything he brought over worked on our 2015 package. I need to be professional and give him the opportunity to do his job. I think it will work out really good.”

Proof, then, that even though ugly sweaters are all the rage this month, Earnhardt and the 88 crew are still focused on business come 2015.