Darlington: Dale Earnhart Jr preview

DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, ...

DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, #8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET:

Can you put Saturday night's career win No. 17 in perspective?

"Anytime you win it's special, and each win has its own special significance, at least it does to me. Like, last year the Chicago win was more of a statement that even in bad times we could be competitive and win a race. But Saturday night kind of proved we're regaining our old form. This was my first win since having (crew chief and cousin) Tony Eury Jr. back, so that was pretty cool. It was a lot of fun celebrating in Victory Lane with the team. Tony Jr. has done a great job putting together a team that will get us back in the Chase. I've felt all along that we're heading in the right direction, and I've been saying it all year. But to be taken seriously, we needed to win, and we did that Saturday night."

How much do you concern yourself with the points race each week?

"I look at it every week. We're right in the middle of the pack in terms of teams eligible for the chase right now (Dale Jr. is sixth in points; 12 drivers are within the 400-point eligibility window). It's still way too early to get comfortable. You have to keep your eye on some of these guys behind you, because they are very capable of being in the top-10 and in fact probably should be in the top-10. You know guys like Greg Biffle and Elliott Sadler are going to make serious runs before this thing winds down. But I'm confident we'll keep up what we've been doing. If we start to slip through the standings I got confidence in Tony Jr. to make the right decisions within the walls of the shop, within the components of that race car to do what it takes to put us in position to win to get to where we need to be."

What are your thoughts on Saturday night races instead of Sundays?

"I really enjoy running on Saturday nights. Aside from the cooler temperatures and extra grip, you also have Sunday off and are able to plan something with your family and friends. You don't have that many chances throughout the season to do that. So we always try to make Sunday a big day back home. But I like the shorter weekend. It's easier on the teams and on the guys traveling -- especially through the stretches of the races we're running. The guys will have a chance to be around their families on Sundays. Mr. (Mike) Helton said he likes the mix that we have and there is sort of a tradition of racing on Sundays, which I agree. It's nice to go on prime time on Saturday nights on television for the audience. I can imagine there is a different feeling when you're watching a race on Saturday night at home than there is on Sunday. Sunday is sort of a lazy day for everybody. Saturday night is sort of wound up. Everybody is having a good time in the middle of the weekend. That's the way the feeling is on the race track too."

Do you look forward to Darlington?

"It's difficult to look forward to it. It's been a tough track for me, and it's really hard to race on due to the way it wears the tires out. It's a good thing they started running it at night. That's a little bit easier on the tires, and it does add a little more grip to the surface, because that's what everybody is always looking for. But I haven't had a lot of success there. It'd be great to get us a win there, because any time you win at Darlington, you've really put in a good hard day's work. We've had some pretty good cars there, not really any great, great finishes, but we've had some pretty decent runs there. Every time I go back, I feel like I'm a little bit closer to that opportunity to win there."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team scored their first win of the season Saturday night at Richmond, leading three times for 47 laps (including the last 45) en route to the victory. It was Dale Jr.'s 17th career victory, and first since Chicagoland Speedway last July. The win moves him to sixth in the Nextel Cup point standings, eight points out of fifth and 216 behind leader Jimmie Johnson. In 10 races this year, the Budweiser team has three top-fives and four top-10s. The #8 Chevy has led four races for 88 laps.

MORE WIN NOTES FOR THE BUD TEAM:

* Dale Jr. moved to 38th on NASCAR's all-time winner's list, tied with Jeff Burton, Marvin Panch and Curtis Turner. He is tied for 22nd in NASCAR's "modern era" wins list.

* Dale Jr. has won at least one race in each of his seven seasons as a NASCAR Nextel Cup driver (2000-06).

* Four of Dale Jr.'s 17 career victories have come on short tracks (three at Richmond, one at Bristol).

* Saturday's win marked the fifth time Dale Jr. has won at night and first time since the Aug. 28, 2004, Sharpie 500 at Bristol.

DALE JR NOTEBOOK ON DARLINGTON:

* Four top-10 finishes in 11 races at Darlington (most recently May 7, 2005)

* Riding a string of three consecutive top-15 finishes at Darlington.

* Best finish of fourth on March 17, 2002 is his only top-five.

* Has led 135 laps at Darlington over the course of four races (most recently March 21, 2004)

* Has started third or better in two of the last three races at Darlington.

* 10 top-10s in his last 16 night races.

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Marvin Panch , Elliott Sadler , Tony Eury Jr.