Charlotte II: Dale Earnhardt Jr preview

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "Charlotte's tough whether you run good or not. It will wear you out. It's a rough track that bounces you and the car around each lap. We ran really well there a few years back, and then we...

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:

"Charlotte's tough whether you run good or not. It will wear you out. It's a rough track that bounces you and the car around each lap. We ran really well there a few years back, and then we seemed to lose that advantage. Slowly we've made our way back to a set-up that works well under the lights.

"The top-10 at Kansas was huge for us. That was one of our problem tracks, one that could have ultimately been our doom had we not tested real hard there and put so much emphasis on it. I really like the focus of our team. I'm really proud of the way we've handled adversity all year. Whether or not we win the championship, I know this is a championship-caliber team. We've got some good tracks coming up. We're pretty decent at Charlotte, real good at Martinsville, won at Atlanta and Phoenix, so we have the potential to keep stacking on top-5s and top-10s in the coming weeks. We've got a test at Homestead coming up in a few weeks that's really important. I think the championship will be decided there."

-- Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team have five top-10s in 10 starts at Lowe's Motor Speedway, most recently a sixth-place finish in the 600-mile race earlier this year. Dale Jr.'s best finish at the Charlotte-area track is fourth (achieved twice), and he scored a victory in the non-points paying NEXTEL All-Star Challenge in 2000.

-- Heading into the fifth race of the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, Dale Jr. is second in the championship point standings, 29 markers behind leader Kurt Busch. This season the Bud team has scored five wins (tied for series best), 14 top-fives and 19 top-10s. A ninth place at Kansas on Sunday gave Dale Jr. his fifth straight top-10 finish, tying a career-long top-10 streak (achieved twice before, once in 2002 and again in 2003). Dale Jr. and Kurt Busch are the only drivers to record top-10s in each of the four "Chase" races. Dale Jr. has a 5.5 average finish in the first four races of The Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, second among the top-10 drivers.

-- A noted night owl, Dale Jr. has fared quite well in night races, scoring 11 top-10 finishes in the last 14 events under the lights. In 2004, Dale Jr. has finishes of sixth or better in five of the six night races, including two victories (May 15 at Richmond and Aug. 28 at Bristol). All told, four of Junior's 14 career victories have come under the lights.

-- The Bud team has four top-10s in six races on 1.5-mile tracks this year, including a win at Atlanta on March 14.

-dei-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kurt Busch