DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, #8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET:
On the Bud team's recent struggles at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
"It used to be a pretty decent track for us. I know you're only as good as your last race, but man, it wasn't too long ago that we were knocking on the door to some wins there. Every time we ran there in the Busch Series, we were a solid top-five team. We went in as Nextel Cup rookies in 2000, led a bunch of laps and finished 10th. Then, a few years ago we finished second to Matt (Kenseth). I was pretty happy. But the last two or three years we struggled quite a bit. I think we're on our way to getting back in the game. (Crew chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. has been working real hard, and I'm working real hard to give him the best feedback I can possibly give. I know if we can get through this race, we'll be looking pretty good (in the point standings). We've won at eight of the next nine tracks on the schedule after Vegas."
On lessons learned from the January test at LVMS:
"We're taking a car we were pretty comfortable with at the test (in January). We tested two cars, and this was definitely the better of the two. I think the body is a little better, it's faster... it's definitely what we wanted to see when we tested it. I think the test was good in that it gave us a solid platform to work off of. We needed a good place to start. Everyone at the shop has worked so hard. I'm really proud of the progress we've made so far. It's obvious we've still got a lot of work to do, but we're making gains. I think the Fontana race last week proved that."
On the upcoming changes scheduled to be made at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, including the addition of more banking:
"I like driving on racetracks with more banking, so I'm excited about the changes. I think if it's anything like you've seen in the past with places like Homestead, you'll see a lot of success with it. I have my own theory about banking, progressive banking and how to create a track that will have multiple grooves. If you're going to make a track that has multiple grooves, the top of the corner has to be the same altitude as a straightaway, and you have to basically dig out the bottom of the corner. It has to be lower in altitude than the straightaway itself. You know, I think that you'll have that opportunity at Las Vegas with the front straightaway. The back straightaway is a little flat, and if you're just going to pile a bunch of dirt up in the corner, nobody is going to drive up a hill to go into the top groove. You'll just go right to the bottom. But if you look at a lot of the tracks like Dover and other places where there's multiple grooves, the bottom of the corner is the lower altitude than the straightaway itself. So it makes sense that you might try different ways around the corner."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the Las Vegas race fifth in the Nextel Cup point standings. Dale Jr. opened the 2006 season with finishes of 8th (Daytona) and 11th (Fontana). The Bud team has led at least one lap in each of the two races this year, marking the first time Dale Jr. has accomplished such a feat.
STARTING STRONG: If the Budweiser team finishes 21st or better this weekend in Las Vegas, it will mark Dale Jr.'s best-ever start to a season after three races. Dale Jr.'s previous best average after three races is 13.6 (2004), followed closely by his 2000 average of 14.0. Only once (2000) has Dale Jr. started off the season with three consecutive top-20 finishes. Through two races this year, Dale Jr.'s average finish is 9.5.