DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, #8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET:
You won this race last year, Junior. How excited are you to return to Richmond?
"I always look forward to racing at Richmond. It was one of the first places I went to as a kid to watch my dad race. It was a really neat place before it was reconfigured, but it's just as cool now. They did a great job paving the track last year. We were able to run side by side without any problems. I really like the line you run there to be competitive, because it really suits my style."
It was your team's decision not to pit last year that put you in position for the win, and you ran off with it at the end. What do you remember about that?
"Our car was stout, but we didn't have the best car over the long run. I was just trying to conserve my car. My brakes were giving me some problems. I was real worried about my brake rotors flying off the car into the fence. I took it easy on the brakes and saved the car for the end of the race. The caution came out with about 50 to go, and I knew a lot of guys were going to pit. We thought about pitting, but my car was really loose on new tires, so we stayed out. It was a good choice. We got out front and put some distance on Jimmie Johnson. My car was handling great at the end."
Do you bring more confidence to Richmond than any other track?
"Well, I don't know about more confidence, but we're always pretty confident going to Richmond. We won three or four Busch races there. We usually have a good car every time we go there. It's a short track, and traditionally we've been really good at short tracks." (See note below)
The Bud team put together another top-10 run last week despite starting in the back, and you did it at Darlington, no less ...
"Yeah (laughing), that ain't been one of my favorite places, but I had about as much fun as you could have at Darlington last week. It was a decent finish for us. We didn't qualify too well, it was really loose, and that's how you have to start the race (due to the impound rules), so I tried not to push it too hard at the beginning. We just worked our way up all night, stayed out of trouble, and managed to get a top-10 out of it ... We're working real hard trying to get the finishes we know we can get at the tracks we feel confident at. I'm looking forward to the race this week at Richmond and the next couple of races after that. Should be exciting."
2005 SEASON OVERVIEW: Fresh off an eighth-place finish at Darlington Raceway on Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the 11th race of the season ninth in the Nextel Cup championship standings. Dale Jr. found himself as far back as 27th in points after week three, but has since made a rapid climb into the top 10 by virtue of six straight top-15 performances. On the season, the Bud team has three top-5 finishes and five top-10s. Four of Dale Jr.'s top-10s have come in the last six races.
THIS RACE, LAST YEAR: Dale Jr. enters the weekend at Richmond International Raceway as the reigning race winner, earning victory in last year's Chevy American Revolution 400. In that race, Dale Jr. led 115 laps and beat Jimmie Johnson by more than three seconds to the checkered flag.
RICHMOND NUGGETS: Dale Jr. brings a sterling track record to RIR, with two victories, six top-fives, eight top-10s, and no DNFs in 11 races. He finished first and second in the two Richmond races last year. Junior's 8.8 average finish in 11 races is the best among all active drivers. He has led in seven races (including the last four) at RIR for a total of 275 laps.
TURN ON THE LIGHTS: Saturday's race at Richmond will mark the third night race of the 2005 season. The Brew Crew has finished eighth or better in seven of its last eight night races, most recently finishing eighth at Darlington last week. Dale Jr. has scored two victories while on night watch, both coming last year (Richmond on May 15 and Bristol on Aug. 28).
SHORT-TRACK SUCCESS: In 2004, Dale Jr. scored more points (924) on short tracks (less than a mile in length) than any other driver for the second consecutive year, posting two victories and four top-10s. Junior has top-5 finishes in five of his last seven short-track races. He also has nine top-10s in his last 13 events at venues less than a mile in length.