Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "I'm glad to be points racing again. The all-star race is cool and I know the fans love it, but we're so focused on running for the championship that it was a little more nerve-racking just...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
"I'm glad to be points racing again. The all-star race is cool and I know the fans love it, but we're so focused on running for the championship that it was a little more nerve-racking just from fear of messing up the big picture. We came away (from the all-star race) disappointed because we had a great car at the beginning -- one that could've won the race -- but lost it on adjustments. This place (Lowe's Motor Speedway) is so temperature sensitive that our problem may have been not keeping up with the changes of the track. That will be the key in the (Coca-Cola) 600. We go from sunlight at the start into darkness, and it's always a challenge to keep the car handling the way you want it.
On driving the extra 100 miles:
"A lot happens once we go beyond 500 miles. Physically, your arms, neck and eyes feel the difference. It beats you up and your eyes struggle to focus. Mentally, the challenge is just staying focused. It's not as difficult if you're running well. But if your car sucks and you can't pass anybody, then it's like a long road trip where you read every sign, look at every mile-marker and try to figure how much longer it's going to be 'til it's over. You start thinking about what you're going to do tomorrow or if your laundry needs to be done. Hopefully we won't have that problem."
-- Dale Jr. has four top-10s in nine races at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He made his NEXTEL Cup debut five years ago in this race at the 1.5-mile track. In May, 1999, he started eighth and finished 16th on what was called "E-Day" to commemorate his Cup debut. Dale Jr. won his first career Bud Pole Award here in May, 2000, less than one week after becoming the first rookie driver to win the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.
-- The Bud team suffered a rare DNF (did-not-finish) at this race last year after a problem with the brake system while Dale Jr. was racing for the lead. The team was unable to rejoin the race when it was shortened by rain. The problem ended a then league-leading streak of 36 consecutive races without a DNF.
-- Dale Jr. enters this weekend with a 40-point lead in the NEXTEL Cup championship standings. With his victory at Richmond on May 16, Dale Jr. became the first driver to reach three wins this year. The trio of victories tie his career best for wins in one season, matching his 2001 victory total. After 11 races in 2004, he is also the series leader in top fives (7, tied with Jimmie Johnson), laps led (552), top-10 starts (9) and prize earnings ($3,339,005). Dale Jr. joins Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler as the only drivers who have remained in the top 10 in points all season.
-- Since joining the circuit full-time in 2000, Dale Jr. has the third-most wins of any active driver. Jeff Gordon's 17 victories lead the category, followed by Tony Stewart's 14 and Dale Jr.'s 12... (That total does not include four "non-points" wins for Dale Jr. in the 2000 All-Star Race, the 2003 Budweiser Shootout, and a pair of wins in Daytona 125 qualifying races.)