Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: The 600-mile race this weekend is the longest of the season. How mentally challenging is it to drive 100 miles more than what you are accustomed to? "It's mentally and physically challenging.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
The 600-mile race this weekend is the longest of the season. How mentally challenging is it to drive 100 miles more than what you are accustomed to?
"It's mentally and physically challenging. It's a long race, and if you're not doing well, it seems like it's 800 miles. Mentally, the challenge is just staying focused; physically, the challenge is just staying alive. You're arms and neck feel like they could give out any time. It's long as hell, and a lot can happen in that extra 100 miles."
A lot can happen early on, too, like the all-star race last Saturday night.
"Yeah, getting caught up in that wreck (on lap 35) was unfortunate, because Pete (Rondeau) had made the changes I needed, and the car was really fast. I'm not sure we would've had anything for Mark Martin, but it would've been nice to at least have a shot. But I was pretty happy after the all-star race. If you don't win it, it really doesn't matter where you finish in my opinion. What was more important to me is that we took a car that wasn't really fast, and made it fast. We learned a lot, and I think it's going to help us this weekend."
Are you glad to be points racing again?
"Absolutely. I'm ready to get back at it. We dropped out of the top-10 at Richmond, and I want to get back in it. We're taking a brand new car to Charlotte this weekend. We tested there a few weeks ago, the track is really fast with the new surface, and it should be a lot of fun."
2005 SEASON OVERVIEW: Coming off a 14th-place finish at Richmond International Raceway two weeks ago and a 10th-place finish in the non-points paying Nextel All-Star Challenge on Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the Coca-Cola 600 weekend 11th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. Dale Jr. is currently riding a string of seven straight top-15 performances. On the season, the Brew Crew has three top-5s and five top-10s. Four of Dale Jr.'s top-10s have come in the last seven races.
HIGHS AT LOWE'S: Dale Jr. is currently riding a string of three straight top-10 finishes at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and has six in 11 career races there. He made his NEXTEL Cup debut six 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.
-- Dale Jr. is one of five drivers who scored top-10s in both races at Lowe's Motor Speedway last year. Jamie McMurray, Elliott Sadler, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are the others. Dale Jr. finished sixth and third, respectively, at Charlotte in 2004.
NIGHT RIDER: A noted night owl, Dale Jr. has fared quite well in night races, finishing eighth or better in seven of his last nine night events. Dale Jr. has scored four victories on night watch -- once at Daytona (2001), once at Bristol (2004) and twice at Richmond (2000 and 2004).