Countdown to the Daytona Shootout: Earnhardt Jr

8 Days Until the Budweiser Shootout Dale Earnhardt Jr. prepares for grueling 17 days (Fri., Jan. 30, 2004) -- If Dale Earnhardt Jr., a night owl at heart, ever buys into the old adage, "Early to bed, early to rise," there's a good chance it will...

8 Days Until the Budweiser Shootout
Dale Earnhardt Jr. prepares for grueling 17 days

(Fri., Jan. 30, 2004) -- If Dale Earnhardt Jr., a night owl at heart, ever buys into the old adage, "Early to bed, early to rise," there's a good chance it will happen in the next two weeks. Take a peek at his to-do list for the next 17 days:

Five races, 16 practice sessions, two rounds of Bud Pole/Busch Pole qualifying, five mandatory drivers meetings, a handful of Make-a-Wish appearances, even more media and sponsor appearances, and -- if he has his way -- time to enjoy a nice, cold Budweiser at the end of each day.

Even with a hectic schedule awaiting him, Dale Jr. is primed and ready for his fifth Daytona Speedweeks. He is the defending race winner in three of the five races he'll compete in, starting with the Budweiser Shootout on Sat., Feb. 7.

"I love Speedweeks," said the driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet. "I'm ready to get going. I spent the off-season feeling like an unemployed bum, so it's great to get to the track and get used to the spectacle of the races again. By the end of every season, you're begging for it to end. But, once the off-season is a few weeks old, you're begging to get going again. It's like all of the off-season energy gets bottled up and it's ready to explode by the time the Shootout gets here."

If that's truly the case, then Dale Jr. is a ticking time bomb, because the 26th running of the Budweiser Shootout is only eight days away. He won this race last year despite drawing the very last starting position, which comes as no surprise given the superspeedway might of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. But even with past success, Junior doesn't underestimate the intricacies of a 70-lap dash for cash.

"The Budweiser Shootout is a true sprint race," he said. "It's like NASCAR's version of the 40-yard dash. We run wheel to wheel knowing that every inch we give will be taken. It's high adrenaline all the time, and that's the way I like it. Plus it's under the lights, and night racing is always fun. It's pretty awesome from where I sit, so I'm sure it's cool watching it from the grandstands, too."

IT'S NO SECRET ... Junior digs white paint schemes, which is just what he'll get for Daytona Speedweeks. Inspired by the groundbreaking "Born On Date" initiative, the Budweiser car will feature a special edition No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. "Day Fresh" paint scheme in the Budweiser Shootout, the Twin-125 and the Daytona 500. A new "Born On Date" will be applied to the hood for each race, keeping the car "Day Fresh" throughout Speedweeks. Interestingly enough, the last time Dale Jr., raced a car with a white paint scheme was in the 2001 Pepsi 400 at Daytona, which he won.

IF DALE JR. WINS ... this year's Budweiser Shootout, he will be only the fourth driver in the event's 26-year history to earn back-to-back wins. Ironically, it was his victory in the 2003 race that ended the streak of the third driver to do so -- Tony Stewart. Stewart drove the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac to Shootout wins in 2001 and 2002. The first repeat winner was Neil Bonnett (1983, 1984) and the second was Ken Schrader (1989, 1990).

JUNIOR'S SPEEDWEEKS SCHEDULE ... was equally as hectic last year, as he competed in four events and won three of them. With his trio of victories, he joined his father, Dale Earnhardt, and racing legend Glenn "Fireball" Roberts as the only drivers to win three races in a single Daytona Speedweeks.

THE No. 8 BUDWEISER TEAM ... already has a compelling resume at Daytona International Speedway with wins in the Pepsi 400 (2001), the Budweiser Shootout (2003) and the Twin-125s (2003), but one win still eludes Earnhardt and the team -- the Daytona 500.

"The Daytona 500 is a real important race and one of the top two goals of my career, and that's probably the same for a lot of other guys in the garage," Earnhardt said. "We put a lot of emphasis on winning this race. We test here. We spend probably 25 percent of our company revenue or income on (restrictor)-plate stuff. So a lot goes into this, and it's pretty important to all of us."

ODDS AND ENDS ... Dale Jr.'s 2003 Budweiser Shootout win from 19th starting position is the deepest starting position of any Shootout winner; however two other drivers (Dale Earnhardt in 1991 and 1993, and Dale Jarrett in 2000) have gone from worst-to-first in Shootouts with smaller fields ... Junior's 2003 win marked the 13th Chevrolet victory in 25 Budweiser Shootouts.

The 26th running of the Budweiser Shootout is scheduled for Sat., Feb. 7. It can be seen live on TNT at 8 p.m. ET. For race tickets, call 1-800-PITSHOP or log on to www.1-800-Pitshop.com.

Anheuser-Busch's 12 U.S.-based breweries and network of more than 700 wholesalers reduce delivery time and ensure that fresh beer is in retail accounts shortly after packaging. As it reads on every beer package, Anheuser-Busch beers including Budweiser are at their peak of freshness and taste within 110 days from their "Born On" date.

-budweiser-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Dale Jarrett , Tony Stewart