Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
Phoenix has always been one of your better tracks. What do you attribute that to?
"I've been fortunate enough to have good cars there. It's not a short track but it has short-track tendencies, and we've always been pretty good on short tracks. The two corners are completely different with a dogleg on the backstretch. The banking is different, too. The challenge is to get your car handling in both corners because there is so much room to pass, especially since they widened the dogleg a few years ago. It's real important to get a good kick off turn four and ride the momentum all the way down the front straightaway. That's where we've been so good in the past -- getting that big run off of (turn) four. The times we won there, nobody could touch us coming off that turn."
Is the unique configuration at PIR something you enjoy?
"I like it. To win at places like Phoenix or Bristol is rewarding because they're so different than all of the other tracks on the circuit, and -- for me -- they require a lot more discipline. At Phoenix there are so many opportunities to pass you tend to forget about the wall coming up, and that's where it can bite you. It's easy to overdrive, easy to kill your lap times. In April I was really struggling with the car, and I couldn't figure out why. We made some adjustments, but it wasn't helping. Finally, I decided to step back off the pedal and slow down a bit. That's when I started passing people."
How has the addition of Tony Eury Jr. as crew chief helped the Budweiser team in the past eight races?
"Tony Jr. has been a big plus for us. The cars he builds are really good, really fast. It motivates me to drive as hard as I can, because all a driver really asks for is a chance to win. With Tony Jr, I feel I have that chance. Everybody at DEI has stepped up. We've seen considerable gains in horsepower. We've seen gains everywhere, and we've been running a lot better lately."
BUDWEISER QUICK NOTES: Dale Jr. enters the Phoenix race weekend 18th in the Nextel Cup point standings after an eighth-place finish at Texas on Sunday. It was the Bud team's second consecutive top-10 finish and 13th this season. Junior has one victory (Chicagoland Speedway on July 9) and seven top-fives through 34 races.J
PHOENIX TIDBITS: Dale Jr. is the two-time defending winner of the Checker Auto Parts 500k, taking the laurels in 2003 after leading 87 laps and 2004 after pacing the field for 118 laps ... Dale Jr. is riding a string of four consecutive top-fives at PIR, dating back to a fifth-place finish in 2002 ... Junior finished fourth in the inaugural spring race at Phoenix earlier this year ... The Budweiser team has started in the top-15 in each of the last four races at this 1-mile track ... Junior has led a total of 293 laps at PIR... Six of Dale Jr.'s 16 career victories have come at tracks one mile in length or less -- two at Phoenix, two at Richmond, one at Dover and one at Bristol ... Since the 2001 season, the Budweiser team has finished 10th or better in more than half of its races at tracks one mile in length or less (31 top-10s in 55 races).J
OLD FAITHFUL: The Budweiser team will use Chassis #10 this weekend, which has finished second or better in each of the last three races at PIR. This is the same car that carried Dale Jr. to both his Phoenix victories (2003 and 2004), leading a combined 205 of a possible 627 laps. Earlier this year, DEI teammate Michael Waltrip drove it to a runner-up finish with 23 laps led.