Pocono: Dale Earnhardt Jr preview

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: Would you consider Pocono a love-hate relationship, considering you've struggled there at times and also had pretty good success? "I don't know if I'd even call it a love-hate relationship ...

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:

Would you consider Pocono a love-hate relationship, considering you've struggled there at times and also had pretty good success?

"I don't know if I'd even call it a love-hate relationship ... I've yet to fall in love with the place. But I'm getting used to it. It was a really difficult place for me when I started out in the Cup Series, but we've figured some things out about the race set-up, and I've figured some things out on how to drive it. We had a pretty good race at Pocono last year, finished in the top-10. The second race there (in August) wasn't that great, but I was banged up (from injuries sustained in an American Lemans Series crash a few weeks earlier in Sonoma, Calif.) and had to get out of the car, so that one doesn't count (laughing)!"

OK, we'll scratch the second race. But what was it you learned over the years about Pocono that will come into play this weekend?

"Track position is so critical at that place, because if you can get out front in clean air, you can check out and leave 'em in the dust. It's tough to get comfortable and find a fast and consistent set-up.JPocono can wear you out, and 500 miles there is a long race. You also hear people talk about finding a good balance -- a happy medium -- in getting the car to handle through all three corners. That's all true. But you really want to be sure you're car is handling in (turn) 3, so you can get that good momentum down the straightaway."

You're still 15th in points. What are your thoughts on the points battle as we head to race 14 of the season?

"Yeah, as much as we've struggled, we're 15th and still less than 100 points from sixth. I feel like we can make that up pretty quick; just need a couple good races here the next two or three weeks and we'll be right back in it. We don't think week-to-week. We're thinking long term. We're trying to do what's best for our race team, and what gives us the best chances of getting into the Chase for the Championship."

2005 SEASON OVERVIEW: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the Pocono race weekend 15th in the Nextel Cup point standings (1,494 points) after a 22nd-place finish in the MBNA RacePoints 400 at Dover on Sunday. This season, the Bud team has scored three top-5s and five top-10s in 13 races. Dale Jr. is 79 points out of the top-10 and 94 points out of sixth.

AT POCONO: Dale Jr. has three top-fives and four top-10s in 10 total starts at Pocono Raceway. He has finished sixth or better in three of the last four races at the 2.5-mile track. Dale Jr. has been running at the finish in all 10 of his races at Pocono Raceway, tying him with Matt Kenseth and Dave Blaney for the second-longest streak among active drivers at the track. Elliott Sadler leads with 12.

-dei-

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Series NASCAR-CUP