Darlington II: Dale Earnhardt Jr preview

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "We've never dominated at Darlington, that's for sure. I used to hate it, and they gave me a trophy because I said some nasty things about the track surface. Since then, we've been really ...

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

"We've never dominated at Darlington, that's for sure. I used to hate it, and they gave me a trophy because I said some nasty things about the track surface. Since then, we've been really competitive. We got crashed in the final laps to cost us a top-three finish (fall. 2001. after receiving "The Shelly" award for saying the track was paved with tire-shredding sea-shells), and we've been better every time we've gone back. The way we've been running, I think we'll be in the mix to get a win or at least a top-five. This team has given me a great car every week. It'd be great to win the Southern 500 - it's one of the all-time greats for more than 50 years, but it's tough because 500 miles around that old place feels like it takes 53 years."

"Strategy!? For us there is no strategy. We've given back so many points we should have right now that we can't even worry about it anymore. It's done. It's past. Get over it. We just have to lead the most laps and win each race. If we win the Cup, cool. If we don't, I know we'll still be proud of the season we've had. We're testing at Homestead this week and we're going to keep doing everything we can to win the last two. That's all we can do at this point, and it's kind of fun, really. Just lettin' it all hang out and lettin' the rough side drag..."

Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team have three top-10s in nine career starts at Darlington, each coming in the last five races. Dale Jr.'s only top-five came in March 2002, when he recorded his career-best finish at Darlington of fourth. A 10th-place finish at Darlington earlier this year gave the Bud team its fourth top-10 in its first five races of the 2004 season.

The Budweiser team is coming off its sixth win of the season at Phoenix, which doubles its previous number of wins in one year (three wins in 2002). On the season, Dale Jr. now has 16 top-fives (career-best) and 21 top-10s (ties a career best), putting him third in the Nextel Cup standings with two races to go. He trails leader Kurt Busch by 47 points. He has also exceeded his previous season-best for prize money with almost $6.9 million in the bank with two events remaining.

Random Notes:

Double-up: After eight "Chase" races, Dale Jr. has two wins, two third-place finishes, two ninth-place finishes and two 33rd-place rankings. He has now won the same event in consecutive seasons three times: Talladega spring race (2002/2003), Talladega fall race (2001/2002) and now Phoenix (2003/2004). For those who still insist the Bud team is successful only at restrictor-plate events, the Phoenix win gives them eight non-restrictor plate victories at six tracks other than Daytona and Talladega. The No. 8 team has also finished the last three seasons with more points on short tracks (less than one-mile in length) than any other team.

All-Time?: Dale Jr. is 40th in all-time Cup wins, tied with Ernie Irvan. However, NASCAR also has a separate "official all-time" tally for what is known as "the modern era," which began in the early 1970s when Winston joined the sport. Using the modern-day chart, Dale Jr. is 22nd, tied with Buddy Baker and Irvan. Among current drivers, he is now 10th in career victories in less than five years in the series.

-dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ernie Irvan , Kurt Busch , Buddy Baker