EARNHARDT, JR. DREAMS ABOUT BECOMING a NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES CHAMPION ONE DAY DIGGING DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet are once again in the 'The Chase for the Championship.' NASCAR RaceDay ...
EARNHARDT, JR. DREAMS ABOUT BECOMING a NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES CHAMPION
DIGGING DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet are once again in the 'The Chase for the Championship.' NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED insider Wendy Venturini grabbed the North Carolina native prior to this past weekend's NASCAR Nextel Cup race from Phoenix International Raceway.
After a disappointing 2005, Earnhardt, Jr., is 115 points out of first, with an outside shot at his first NASCAR Nextel Cup Series championship. Here is what he had to say on the most recent edition of NASCAR RaceDay.
Venturini: After Dale Earnhardt, Jr., overcame the flu in Texas, he's been keeping his eye on the championship trophy. How difficult was that for you both physically and emotionally?
Earnhardt, Jr.: Emotionally, it wasn't too bad. Well, when you hit the wall, you go from such a high because we were running second, to pretty much, 'Man, there goes the championship, right there.' Physically, the first half of the race was really tough. Then I got to feeling a little better halfway through the race and I was able to come on at the end and run hard -- I was able to be there with the car. I don't think that I'll ever see that again in my career, where I had so much damage to the car, but still be able to compete.
Venturini: When we talked earlier this season, you talked about some the challenges that you were going through.
Earnhardt, Jr.: There were situations last year where I had to either lay down or dig deeper and get some more out of the car. I was able to find more out of myself, learn more about me and I brought that to the table this year.
Venturini: Was that (Texas) one of those moments where you had to dig deep?
Earnhardt, Jr.: Yeah, definitely. There's a switch in your mind that goes, 'You go from competing or a competitive mode. They just fixed the car. We went back out there and tried pretend that nothing had happened. Luckily, the car was there for us.
Venturini: How optimistic are you about the championship? Is it yours for the taking?
Earnhardt, Jr.: It's not mine for the taking. It's theirs to lose, but you've just got to be standing there waiting to grab it.
Venturini: Shouldn't you have a little more aggressive outlook on that?
Earnhardt, Jr.: I would if we weren't so far behind. I was looking with about four to go and a 100 point deficit -- that if we could have knocked 20 or 30 points off a race, we'd be okay. But they've got to make a pretty big mistake for us to gain on them.
Venturini: How much pressure are you under knowing that all eyes are probably on you?
Earnhardt, Jr.: I like it. I liked being on the fringe of not making the Chase, around the Richmond race. It was touch and go for everybody. I liked being in the middle of that. I obviously like being in the point's battle all the way to the end, and having an opportunity to numerically still win a championship. All the way up to the last race. It's exciting.
Venturini: What do you think about when you think of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., becoming a Nextel Cup Series champion?
Earnhardt, Jr.: It's something I think everyone dreams about. I think about it. I think it's in the cards for me one of these days. I'm very excited about it.citing. to the last race. It;s eing in the points battle all the way to the end, and having an opportunity to numerically sti