DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, #8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET:
On a good start to the season with a top-10 at Daytona:
"We were satisfied with how our Daytona Speedweeks went. Obviously I wanted to win. I thought we had a chance to win. We led a bunch of laps, and raced in the top-five for most of the day. But considering that a lot of really good teams left Daytona with poor finishes because of crashes, I'm happy to get out of there with an eighth-place finish."
On the Budweiser Team's improvement on the intermediate flat tracks like Fontana:
"We're better, but not where we need to be. I'd like to be faster. We're right in the middle of the charts at places like Fontana, Michigan and Las Vegas. I was happy with how we ran at a lot of tracks last year. The car at Chicago was competitive all day, and we won that race. At Homestead we were one of the faster cars after 30 laps. We tested at Texas in January and were really, really fast. But at these tracks with half the banking, we've definitely struggled over the last two or three years. We made some gains last year, but we're not where we need to be. Fortunately, we run good at places like Atlanta, Bristol, Phoenix -- ya know, basically all the other tracks -- so we'll be able to cover our tails until we get Vegas and California figured out."
On Chevrolet's new nose and how it will work at "downforce" tracks like Fontana:
"We tested (the new body) a little bit last year and felt like the new nose was better. It offers a little more in the way of downforce, and little more in the way of grip to the front tires. But we're talking tenths of a percent here, not a whole lot. Between the tests at Vegas and Texas, we've already acquainted ourselves with this new nose, and we're satisfied with what we've got. We've seen a lot of teams -- like Dodge for instance -- change their nose over the last five or six years and struggle the entire season. So I feel like we're fortunate in that regard. It's good to get a new nose, a new tail. Chevrolet has worked real hard to lobby for advances in the downforce and aero packages of our cars. Just makes you glad you're driving a Chevy."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the second race of the new season sixth in the Nextel Cup point standings. Dale Jr. finished eighth in Sunday's Daytona 500, leading the most laps and receiving 10 bonus points. Dating back to last year, Dale Jr. has three top-10 finishes in his last five races.
FONTANA TIDBITS: Dale Jr.'s best finish at California Speedway is third in 2001, followed by a sixth-place finish in 2003.