DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, #8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET:
What are your thoughts on Bristol Motor Speedway?
"It's a love-hate relationship. I remember sitting there last year with about 100 laps to go (in the Sharpie 500 last August) and thinking how much I hated the place. Then we won, and it was my favorite track on the circuit. I remember coming here as a little kid just in awe of the place. Those steep banks at Bristol can be intimidating, so it's equally cool to win there. Bristol is a lot like other tracks -- it's been around for years and it's on every driver's wish list of places you want to win at. It was on my list, and I was able to check it off last year."
How were you able to score the win?
"You've got to have a great car to win, and I had one. We didn't qualify really well (started 30th), but it was so fast in the race. At first I'd give up a lot of speed on the exit of the corner by driving in the center too hard, and you can't do that. You just have to keep your pace and not get foolish. I remember my rookie year I was all over the place during practice and wasn't running real good. My dad got on the radio and told me where to lift and where to get on the gas. You lift at the flagstand but you don't use any brakes so you're not really losing a lot of speed by the time you get there. It's tempting to stay on the pedal, because you've got guys driving in much deeper, but if you drive smart and know when to lift, you'll drive right back by in the center of the corner. I started to figure out why my dad wanted me to lift so early, and it was because he wanted me to get on the gas sooner. I was driving into the corner until I couldn't drive in there no more and, as a result, I was going the other way. It was just not as fast. It took me a while to figure it out. The other good thing about that is you don't use your tires up driving deep into the corner and beat the right front."
SEASON OVERVIEW: Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team enter the fifth race of the 2005 Nextel Cup season 26th in points. Through three races, Dale Jr. has one top-three finish, in the season-opening Daytona 500.
JUNIOR AT BRISTOL: In 10 career starts, Dale Jr. has one win, three top-fives and four top-10s at Bristol. He has led four races for a total of 707 laps. His only DNF came in his very first Cup start there in 2000.
LAST TIME AT "THUNDER VALLEY": Dale Jr. led a career-high 295 of 500 laps to dominate the 2004 Sharpie 500 and collect one of his 15 career victories. The win capped a weekend sweep, as Dale Jr. became the first driver earn Busch Series and Nextel Cup victories at Bristol in the same weekend. The Bud team scored the win despite starting 30th. It was only the seventh time in 88 races at Bristol a race winner had started outside the top-15.
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 third consecutive year, posting two victories and four top-10s. Junior has finished third or better in four of his last five short-track races. He also has eight top-10s in his last 11 events at venues less than a mile in length.