DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, #8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET:
You've won five times at Talladega, and finished first or second in the last seven races there, so most would assume it's your favorite track. Is it your favorite?
"Definitely one of them. I love Talladega. Love going there, love racing there, love winning there. If I never win another race there, just winning five will be something special. It's special that my daddy won so many races at that place. I want to keep that Earnhardt family name at the top of the record books. Keep the family tradition going."
You're taking the car you finished third with in the Daytona 500. Knowing what it takes to win at Talladega, can chassis #031 take you to Victory Lane?
"Absolutely. It's a good car. We were way, way, way off at Daytona, and we discovered the problem when we got the car back to the shop. It's a good restrictor-plate car. We had been running pretty good (in the Daytona 500) there for awhile, just kind of beating and banging around in there in the middle about 10th. But at some point we put on a set of tires and the car just drove like it had a big hole in the nose. It wouldn't turn ... pushed real bad. Pete (Rondeau, crew chief) made some really big adjustments, and got it driving good enough at the end to make a stab at it, but we were no better than a third-place car. I don't think we'll have the same problems at Talladega. We've improved a lot as a team since then, too. The communication between Pete and myself has improved a lot."
You always seem to encounter early problems at Talladega but manage to finish at or near the front. What's your secret?
"No secret really. We've got a good restrictor-plate program, and we've been fortunate enough not to encounter any big problems. Some people like to say we're sandbagging, but they're wrong. We seem to have a knack to come from behind at Talladega. We usually have problems early, fix the problems, and race our way to the front at the end. When we had a hole in our grille a few years ago and had 17 pit stops to fix the problem, that wasn't sandbagging. Our company has done a good job staying on top of the restrictor-plate program, but lately we have found good competition from other teams. That'll only make us work harder ... That ain't a bad thing."
Five races ago you were 27th in points, now you're12th ...
"Hell yeah, we've had some pretty good point days the last few weeks... been able to gain a spot here and there. I was real proud of my team last week (at Phoenix), and I was real proud of the whole DEI organization. Michael (Waltrip, teammate) had an awesome race at Phoenix, and I was happy to see that. It's kind of difficult to be a driver and a fan at the same time, but I was pulling hard for him. We're happy with the improvements we've had lately, but it's still early, and there's a lot we've got to get better at."
2005 SEASON OVERVIEW: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the ninth race of the season tied for 12th in the Nextel Cup championship standings (13 points out of the top-10 and 62 out of fifth place). In the last five weeks, Dale Jr. has gained 15 spots in the standings, climbing from 27th to 12th. On the season, the Bud team has three top-5 finishes and four top-10s in eight races, and has finished ninth or better in three of its last four races. Dale Jr. is coming off a fourth-place finish at Phoenix on Saturday.
DALE JR. AT TALLADEGA:
-- Five victories, including a win in last year's EA Sports 500 on Oct. 3.
-- Has finished no worse than second in the last seven races at Talladega.
-- Enjoyed a string of four consecutive victories from Oct. 21, 2001 to April 6, 2003.
-- Finished in the top-10 in his last eight races at Talladega.
-- Is eighth all-time in laps led with 489. Has led laps in nine of his 10 career races. The only race in which he did not lead a lap was his very first (April 16, 2000).
-- One of only five drivers to post a season-sweep at Talladega: Dale Jr. (2002), Dale Earnhardt (1990, 1999), Darrell Waltrip (1982), Buddy Baker (1975) and Pete Hamilton (1970).
-- His 7.3 average finish at Talladega is best among all active drivers.
-- Coupled with his father's unprecedented 10 wins, an Earnhardt has gone to Victory Lane 15 times at Talladega.
DALE JR. ON RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS:
-- Seven victories (two at Daytona, five at Talladega) in 21 career starts.
-- Has finished third or better in his last six "plate" events and in seven of his last eight.
-- Has led at least one lap in his last 12 "plate races.
-- Has led a total of 768 laps at "plate" tracks. Has failed to lead a lap in only four of his 21 starts.
-- Was the only driver to score top-five finishes in all four "plate" races in 2004, two of which were victories.
-- Scored 725 points in restrictor-plate races in 2004, the second time in four years he posted the most "plate" points.
-- Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) teams have won 11 of the last 17 races on restrictor-plate tracks.