EARNHARDT THRILLED ABOUT RETURNING TO WATKINS GLEN ON A ROLL
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. --Dale Earnhardt has several reasons to look forward to coming to Watkins Glen International for Sunday's 10th running of Bud at the Glen NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. Earnhardt, a seven-time Winston Cup champion, will be trying to win his second straight big-time stock car road course event. He will be striving to claw his way back to the top of the point heap while taking advantage of the momentum provided by a victory in the second annual Brickyard 400 last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And, he'll be looking for some relief following the roller-coaster ride of media and business activity that followed his monumental victory. Earnhardt was in and out of his North Carolina home twice in the space of about 24 hours in a whirlwind of responsibilities. While some had written Richard Childress Racing out of the point race, Earnhardt flatly denied that scenario. "I've never been gone --we just had some bad luck during the year," he said of the point race in which he's third, only 121 points out of first-place Jeff Gordon. "We put pressure on ourselves as a race team and when we're not winning a race every two or three times out we feel like we're not doing our job. "My confidence level's been high and the team's has been too. Luck wasn't on our side, I reckon. We had some bad luck and have gotten behind in the points. We haven't gotten beat that bad --we've lost it ourselves with bad luck. If we can get back on track here and can gain back up I think we'll put some pressure back on the guys up front." Earnhardt feels confident no matter what track he's going to. Winning his first NASCAR Winston Cup road race at Sonoma, Calif., in May took that burden off his shoulders. "I've felt good every time I've been to a race, whether it's a road course or whatever," Earnhardt said matter-of-factly. "We ran really good at Watkins Glen last year and I look forward to this year as much as last year. "It does feel better to have won a road course race. Maybe I'll be looked at different now that I have won one, rather than as if I'm not that good a road course driver --even though I've set track records and sat on the pole and everything else." To do that Earnhardt will have to defeat the favorite to win his third straight Bud at the Glen, Mark Martin. Martin, who holds the track qualifying record on WGI's fast, 2.45-mile layout, is fourth in points but is only 174 points out of first, compared to being more than 300 points in arrears at this stage last year. NASCAR Winston Cup practice for the 10th running of Bud at the Glen will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, RCA Pole Day, with Busch Pole Award Qualifying set to begin at 2 p.m. Busch Beer Second-Round Qualifying will take place on Saturday, along with the Burnham 150 for the NASCAR Busch North Series and the Serengeti Eyewear SCCA Trans-Am Tour event. The Bud at the Glen will take the green flag at 1:10 p.m. on Sunday. For ticket information contact the Watkins Glen Ticket Office at 607-535-2481.