Dale Earnhardt Jr. / Driver, ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. / Driver, #8 Budweiser Chevrolet:
"There's so much that comes to mind this week heading to Daytona. First, it's Daytona - which is always a special place for me, no matter what. Then, we're getting Tony (Eury) Jr. back as crew chief. We've done really well without him - Tony Gibson (interim crew chief) did a great, great job for the last six races, but it's Tony Jr's team and I'm looking forward to having him back in the pits and on the radio. We really have a lot of momentum going right now and have been running strong every week so I don't expect that to change. Martin (Truex Jr., DEI teammate) led during the (Daytona) 500 and there's no hotter team than those guys right now, so I'm anxious to get out there and see how we work together. It's good to know you've got a teammate that will run up front with you. And, we're running the special red, white and blue paint scheme, which I think looks pretty cool, and I've done pretty well at Daytona before with different paint schemes. (see notes below)
"But, on the other hand, we weren't a very strong team in the Daytona 500 (in February). We were OK - but OK isn't what we expect or what we're used to at the restrictor-plate tracks. Some of that is almost by design. We used to put so, so much focus on the plate events that we struggled at the intermediate tracks. So, we all made a conscious decision that we needed to step up our effort at the 1.5 and 2-mile tracks. With only so many resources, time and people to go around, we improved a lot in the last year or so on the intermediates, but it meant we weren't as dominant as we used to be at the superspeedways. It was like selling your soul to win all of those restrictor-plate races and then trading some of it back to be better everywhere else.
"The night race is much different than the 500. When the sun goes down, the track gets faster and it gets a lot more grip. That means a lot more guys are packed tighter together and every move seems that much more critical. I'd like to think that will give us a better chance to win another one of these. I'm not running the Busch race because we want to focus everything on winning the 400 Saturday night."
Crew chief Tony Eury Jr. will be back in charge this weekend after a six-race suspension following a technical violation at Darlington. After the 100-point penalty, the Bud team and Dale Jr. were in 15th place in the standings, but have recovered to 12th place, more than 120 points ahead of 13th place... The Bud team has recorded eight top-10 starts and seven top-10 finishes in the first 17 races of 2007 and are coming off of their season-best finish of fourth place at Loudon... Dale Jr. has nine total victories at Daytona... He twice won three races in a single Daytona Speedweeks (2003 and 2004)- a feat matched only by his father, Dale Earnhardt, and Fireball Roberts... He won four races (two Cup, two Busch Series) at Daytona in 2003... He won the Pepsi 400 in 2001, the first of his seven career superspeedway/restrictor plate Cup victories, and considered one of the most emotional wins in NASCAR history following the death of his father in the Daytona 500 in February of that year... In non-points events (Twin-Qualifiers and the Budweiser Shootout), Dale Jr. has 10 finishes of first or second-place in 15 starts, and only one finish worse than seventh place... His victory in the 2004 Daytona 500 was the first of the "Nextel Cup-era," while this weekend's race will be the final restrictor-plate race for this style of chassis before the Car o' Tomorrow becomes a full-time fixture... Dale Jr. will drive a special Budweiser paint scheme this weekend, and both of his previous Cup points victories at Daytona have come in special color schemes: 2001 (MLB All-Star Game) and 2004 Daytona 500 (Budweiser Born-On Date).