Quotes from: DALE EARNHARDT JR. / Driver, ...
Quotes from: DALE EARNHARDT JR. / Driver, #8 Budweiser Chevrolet:
How special is it to return to Texas, where you won your first Busch Series and Nextel Cup races?
"It's very special. I always love running there. Texas was the place where I realized I could make a career out of racing. Before our Busch Series win there in '98, I wasn't sure I was going to make it as a race car driver. I was living in a double-wide and trying to get my career going. I hadn't had much success in racing up to that point, but we won that race at Texas, and it set the foundation for our championship that year."
What are your thoughts on getting around Texas?
"It's super fast. Takes a lot of guts to lay down a good qualifying lap there. In turns three and four you can run three-wide, move around a little bit, and run the high-line if you want to. It's a lot of fun. In turns one and two, you're forced to run the bottom with the springs we're running in these cars now. Also there's a huge bump between turns one and two over the tunnel. It gets worse every year. They need to do something about that (laughing)."
After what happened at Martinsville, did you exercise any more patience Sunday at Atlanta?
"Our car was so good that we were in the top-five all day. That race to the finish with Matt (Kenseth) didn't look very patient, because we were hanging on for dear life to third place. We can talk big-picture racing all day long, but at the end of the race, I want every position I can get and Matt wants every position he can get. I know we lost a lot of points at Martinsville because I was trying to get after it and ended up spinning out, but I'm not going to pull over and let people take the position either. We're still racing hard and trying to win this championship. We're up to fourth in the standings. Another good run this weekend can put us up to third or even second with two races to go."
2006 OVERVIEW: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter race No. 34 of 36 tied for fourth in the Nextel Cup point standings, up two spots from a week ago. Dale Jr. is 84 points behind point leader Matt Kenseth following a third-place finish at Atlanta on Sunday, his 10th top-five finish of the season. The Bud team also has one victory (Richmond) and 15 top-10s in 2006.
TEXAS WEEKEND NOTEBOOK
Lone Star Lowdown: Junior returns to the site of his first Cup and Busch Series victories, Texas Motor Speedway, where he won in his 12th career Nextel Cup start. Since then he has accumulated six top-10 finishes in eight races there, finishing 12th or better in each race except one. The Bud team has led five races at TMS for 253 laps.
Is Texas Junior's Best? It's easy to note the Budweiser team's successes at Daytona, Talladega and Richmond, but nowhere does Junior have a better top-10 percentage than Texas Motor Speedway. Dale Jr. has finished in the top-10 in six of eight career races at TMS (75%). The only tracks close to that are Daytona (64%), Atlanta (60%), Richmond (60%), and Talladega (57%).
Keeping Stride: Even without a victory so far in the 2006 Chase, the Budweiser team has managed an average finish strikingly similar to its average after seven races in the 2004 Chase, in which Junior scored two victories. Dale Jr.'s average through seven Chase races this year is 13.71, compared to 13.00 in 2004. Of the 10 drivers running for this year's championship, Dale Jr. and Matt Kenseth remain the only ones who have scored top-25 finishes in each Chase race.
Did You Know... With his third-place finish in Sunday's race at Atlanta, Dale Jr. has now finished in the top-10 in over half of his career Chase races (nine top-10s in 17 races)?
Other various tidbits: The Budweiser team has three top-fives and four top-10s in its last four races at tracks 1.5 miles in length... Dale Jr. led a season-high 95 laps in Sunday's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta, the most since the same race last year at Atlanta, when he led 142... Junior has now led 18 or more laps in four of the last five races.