Indianapolis: Dale Earnhardt Jr preview

Dale Earnhardt Jr. / Driver, ...

Dale Earnhardt Jr. / Driver, #8 Budweiser Chevrolet:

"The Speedway has been around since 1909, so it's always a race that has the weight of history and importance about it, even if there is still a hint of us being the new guys in town. Kind of like being in someone else's house or something. We're welcome to be there, but it's someone else's home so it feels different than being in your own living room. But I love and appreciate the history and the size of the place - physically and symbolically. I think I'd appreciate it a lot more if I were to win. I know it meant a lot to my dad to win the Brickyard, and I'd like to do the same.

"We're in good shape for the Chase (for the Championship). Even if we were outside the cut-off, I'd still have a lot of confidence in my team that we'd make it. We came in here last year outside of the cut-off for the Chase, and we gambled late in the race (opting not to pit during a caution with less than 20 laps remaining) and came away with a sixth-place finish. We would have been 30th or something if we hadn't taken that risk. It may have been the most important single decision last year to get us into the Chase. But, it's an example of the trust I have in Tony (Eury) Jr. (crew chief) and all of my guys. I'm confident we'll be strong each week, and if we keep doing what we've been doing, we'll be fine. We've not had the finishes we should have, but you can't whine or cry about things like losing the power steering (the power steering pump failed at Chicago two weeks ago, dropping the Bud team from third place to an eventual 19th-place finish). It was freak thing that I've never had happen before and it's something you can't predict. We were a top-five car until that happened, and it's been like that most of the season. We're going to focus on the things we can control, and I'm confident we're going to run up front the rest of the year."

Minutiae:

The statistics back-up Dale Jr's contention that the team is performing much stronger than their finishes would indicate. In the season-long NASCAR "loop data" stats for 2007, Dale Jr's driver rating is seventh-best overall; five spots better than his current 12th-place points position. He is also among the top-10 in nearly all of the other statistical categories including: average running position (9th), fastest driver early in a run (3rd), fastest late in a run (7th), fastest in the turns (7th), fastest laps run (4th), fastest on restarts (3rd), fastest green-flag lap speed (2nd), laps in the top-15 (4th), laps led (7th), miles completed (8th), percentage on lead lap (7th), fastest in traffic (6th), and he ranks first among all drivers for the first 19 races of the year in the 'fastest driver on the straightaways' category...

The race at Indianapolis has seemingly always been fraught with drama of some sort for Dale Jr. and the Bud team. The last three seasons have been a microcosm of their results at the Brickyard. In 2004, Dale Jr. was running sixth when the white flag flew - but a blown tire going into turn one dropped him to a 27th-place finish... in 2005, Dale Jr. was hit from behind on a restart, and the subsequent crash meant a last-place finish after completing only 62 laps... last season, the team struggled with the car, running deep in the field for nearly the entire race until deciding not to pit with the leaders on a lap 144 caution period. When the green flag flew, Dale Jr. actually took the lead for two-thirds of a lap before being passed by eventual victor Jimmie Johnson. He held-on in the remaining laps to finish sixth, marking the single most dramatic decision of the year, and launching the team on their way into the 2006 Chase for the Championship...

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jimmie Johnson