Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: What is your focus heading into the final 10 races? "We've still got plenty to race for, and to make ourselves better for 2006. I think we can learn some stuff in these final 10 races...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
What is your focus heading into the final 10 races?
"We've still got plenty to race for, and to make ourselves better for 2006. I think we can learn some stuff in these final 10 races that will make us better. But we're also going to a lot of tracks where we've won before like Phoenix, Atlanta, Talladega... and we've been consistently good at Martinsville. I'd like to finally win there too. I'm disappointed I didn't make the Chase, but we're not throwing in the towel. My fans wouldn't want me to do that.
What has this season taught you?
"I think I've grown more as a driver this year than any of my previous years. It's been up and down all year -- we run good, then bad, then good, then bad, and we've never been able to find that consistency. It's tough having to answer questions about why we're so inconsistent, because I really don't have the answers. If I did, we'd be running better. I've realized that some years you got it, some years you don't, and in our case, it's not because of a lack of effort. My team has worked so hard this year, and I feel like I've raced harder this year than I've ever raced before.
You think you're doing all you can.
"I've always felt like I've given 100%, but you're put in certain situations and you find there's more... you find you can do more. You're capable of doing more. Hopefully, I still haven't realized my full potential. I feel like I've got a lot to learn and as a driver I can get a lot better and each year I understand there's more to me than I even thought I had."
BUDWEISER QUICK NOTES: In 2005, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team have one victory (Chicagoland Speedway on July 9), five top-fives and 10 top-10 finishes through 26 races. Dale Jr. enters the New Hampshire race weekend 17th in points, 150 points out of 11th position and the $1 million season-ending payout. The Bud team is coming off a 19th-place finish at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday.
NEW HAMPSHIRE TIDBITS: The Bud Team has five top-10s in 12 races at NHIS, most recently a ninth-place finish there in July (Dale Jr.'s second straight top-10 at Loudon and fourth in the last five races). The Brew Crew has fared well on one-mile ovals, scoring top-10s in five of its last six races. Three of Junior's 16 career victories have come on one-mile tracks -- two at Phoenix and one at Dover. This weekend's Sylvania 300 will mark Dale Jr.'s 210th career Nextel Cup start. NHIS was one of the tracks where he made a cameo appearance in the Nextel Cup Series in 1999, driving a limited five-race schedule while still competing full-time in the NASCAR Busch Series. He won the 1998 and 1999 Busch Series championships.