Chicagoland: Dale Earnhardt Jr preview

Quotes from: DALE EARNHARDT JR. / Driver, ...

Quotes from: DALE EARNHARDT JR. / Driver, #8 Budweiser Chevrolet:

On being the defending race winner at Chicago:
"That was a cool win for us last year, because we had struggled so bad at tracks like Chicago... To win there was a huge boost to our confidence. Our car was great that day. I hope we bring a car back as good as that one, because it was just awesome. It was fun winning a race with (Dale Earnhardt Inc. technical director) Steve Hmiel (serving as interim crew chief at the time). I've had so much respect for Steve for years, and to win a race with him on my pit box was pretty special. But the best part was to get a win with that team -- that group of guys. They had been beaten up by the critics and a lot of fans last year. I had told them going in there was going to be a lot of pressure when they put on those red Budweiser uniforms, but I never thought it was going to be as cruel as it was for them. That win will always be for them."

On climbing to third in the point standings:
"I feel good about where we're at. We still need to get better. We obviously couldn't hang with Tony (Stewart) and the guys up front Saturday night at Daytona. But we got out of there with little harm done, and even climbed a spot or two in the points. We're racing big-picture here, one race at a time."

On pulling the Cup/Busch double again this weekend:
"We're running the Busch race this weekend because Chicago is in Menards' back yard, plus the extra track time never hurts. It would be nice to pull off two Busch wins in a row, and give DEI a third Busch win in a row. I'm looking forward to climbing back into one of Tony (Eury) Sr.'s cars. That was a lot of fun last week. Sometimes doing the Busch Series/Cup Series double wears you out, because you go back and forth with the schedule all day. But when you're in a car that's capable of winning, it's always fun."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the Chicago race weekend third in points, the highest it has been all season. With nine races to go before the Chase for the Championship field is set, Dale Jr. trails only point-leader Jimmie Johnson and second-place Matt Kenseth. Through 17 races this year, Dale Jr. has one win (Richmond), five top-fives and seven top-10s.

CHICAGO WEEKEND NOTEBOOK:

* Dale Jr. has climbed from sixth to third in the point standings in the last three races.

* Has seven top-15 finishes in the last eight races.

* Has scored 13 top-15 finishes in 17 races in 2006.

* The Bud team has one victory and two top-10 finishes at Chicagoland Speedway.

* Dale Jr. became the fourth different race winner at Chicagoland when he won this race last year, leading 11 laps en route to the victory.

* Dale Jr. will compete in Saturday's Busch Series race in a #8 Chevrolet prepared by his longtime crew chief Tony Eury Sr. Dale Jr. won last week's Busch race at Daytona, leading 88 of 100 laps to earn his 21st career Busch Series win.

-dei-

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Series NASCAR-CUP