Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a special reason to run well this weekend at Phoenix.

Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 will have a totally new look, one designed by a fan.

As part of a promotion with Diet Mountain Dew, fans had a chance to submit their own dream design for the No. 88. More than 10,000 people stepped up with a concept.  After getting whittled down to ten finalists,  Earnhardt Jr. himself got to pick the winner. That design was unveiled during the first intermission of a Friday night hockey game with the Phoenix Coyotes.

“I’m real happy with it,” Earnhardt Jr. said during a one-on-one interview with our fine website.  “This is clean, has some nice graphics and does a real good job representing the sponsor.”

For years, Earnhardt Jr. has taken special aim on the designs of his car. He said many times something will look good on paper, “But it could be horrible when you see them live.”

In this case, he was impressed with the concept and execution, not to mention the volume of people who devoted time and energy to create their vision for their version of the Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet.

“It is unique,” he said.” We’re not just stick and ball. I’ve been involved with paint schemes for a while and thought this would be a real exciting thing for us and the fans.”

The guy who won is Jason Corino. The 36-year-old lives in Colorado and doesn’t have design experience. He does have enough energy to research previous No. 88 paint scheme to  come up with something he thought his favorite driver would ike.

“There are no words to explain how I feel, other than it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I’m excited,” Corino said. “I can’t wait to see the car on the track."   

Earnhardt Jr. would love to see this kind of fan-generated involvement spread to other sports and thinks a contest like this reflects something special about the relationship fans have with drivers. It’s that kind of motivation that he hopes will steer him to success Sunday in Phoenix.

“If we can get lucky and pull out a win,  that would be real special.” 

Photos courtesy of Seth Flateland and GSE Productions.