Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "It's hard to express how it feels to hear the news about the Hendrick plane crash. It's like a hammer to the chest. It takes the wind out of you. The Hendricks are a great family and they've ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
"It's hard to express how it feels to hear the news about the Hendrick plane crash. It's like a hammer to the chest. It takes the wind out of you. The Hendricks are a great family and they've always been very generous to me and to everyone in NASCAR. It's helpful to have a strong family to surround you, and I know the Hendricks are a great family. For me, being in the garage is like being surrounded by your closest friends and family, and it really helped me through some rough times. I'm sure Rick and all the families involved will receive the support they need from everyone in the NASCAR family."
On rebounding after a tough weekend at Martinsville:
"Martinsville was disappointing, but it's behind us now. We're moving on and staying focused on what we have to do, because we can't afford any more slip-ups. We're a resilient team. Nothing keeps us down for too long. Usually after a bad week, we have a good week. It didn't used to be like that, but as we've matured we've realized we can bounce back from anything. Atlanta is a track we've always been really good at. Every time I go there I feel like I have a chance to win. We did it last time; we can do it again."
Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team have finished seventh or better in the last six races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, including one win and four top-fives. Dale Jr. has failed to lead laps there only twice in 10 career starts, and has been running at the finish in every one of them. This is the longest streak of races without a DNF among the 499 drivers that have competed at Atlanta since 1960. All drivers with more than nine starts there have scored at least one DNF.
Dale Jr. saw his string of six consecutive top-10 finishes come to an end Sunday at Martinsville Speedway with a 33rd-place finish and third DNF of the season. The finish dropped Dale Jr. to third in the championship point standings. With four races to go in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, Dale Jr. trails leader Kurt Busch by 125 points. On the season, the Bud team has five wins, 15 top-fives, and 20 top-10s.
EARNHARDT SUCCESS: The late Dale Earnhardt Sr. had a 9.543 average finish and nine victories in 46 races at Atlanta, the best average finish among all drivers with more than five starts there. Dale Jr. has the second best average finish at Atlanta, with a 10.2 average in just 10 races there.
ON THE REBOUND: If the first Atlanta race this season was any indication, the Budweiser team is one of the best at rebounding after a poor finish. Dale Jr.'s Atlanta victory came on the heels of a 35th-place finish at Las Vegas the week before - his worst finish of the season. His Richmond win came after a 19th-place finish at California, and his Bristol victory was only six days after a 21st-place finish at Michigan. Of the three prior finishes of 30th or worst, Dale Jr. has come back the following week to finish first or second two times.