DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, #8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET:
What are your overall thoughts about going to Darlington?
"When you first get to Darlington, there's not a lot of rubber on the track, and the tires wear out real fast. For that reason, you've got to be just as careful in Friday's practice, because it's just so slick. Just last year I hit the wall in practice, and we had to pull out the back-up car because I knocked the whole roll-cage in. As the weekend goes on, rubber gets down, and the track tightens up a lot. You make changes throughout the weekend and throughout the race to keep up with the track, trying to get rear grip in the back of the car."
I would assume you're a big fan of the soft walls, which were installed there last year...
"Yeah, definitely. You can actually use those to your advantage if you're careful. You can actually lean on 'em a little bit if you have to and not tear your car up. Even the slightest touch on the old concrete walls, and it would crunch the whole right side of the car."
What makes the track so tough to drive?
"The track configuration is very unorthodox. Looking at it from the grandstands, or even an aerial view, it would look pretty easy to drive, but it ain't easy at all. Even with a good car -- hell, even the best car -- you still feel like it ain't that great."
How exciting will it be to race at Darlington under the lights for the first time?
"That'll be cool. It'll be a lot more fun. The track will be a lot cooler with it being a night race, so there will be a lot more grip. Looking forward to it."
2005 SEASON OVERVIEW: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the 10th race of the season ninth in the Nextel Cup championship standings. Over the last six weeks, Dale Jr. has gained 18 spots in the point standings, climbing from 27th to ninth. On the season, the Bud team has three top-5 finishes and four top-10s in nine races. Dale Jr. is coming off a 15th-place finish at Talladega on Sunday.
TOO TOUGH TO TAME: Dale Jr. has three top-10 finishes and one top-five in 10 starts at Darlington, with his best finish a fourth-place in 2002. He has led there four times for a total of 135 laps.
LET THERE BE LIGHTS: Sunday's race at Darlington will mark the second night race of the 2005 season. The #8 Budweiser team has finished sixth or better in seven of its last eight night races, most recently finishing fourth at Phoenix two weeks ago. Dale Jr. has scored two victories while on night watch, both coming last year (Richmond on May 15 and Bristol on Aug. 28).