Daytona 500: Budweiser, Earnhardt Jr. preview

Dale Jr. Quotes for the Daytona 500 "I think we should be among the favorites. I'm proud of that, mainly because this is only our third year in Winston Cup. We were so dominant on the superspeedways last year that I was worried about ...

Dale Jr. Quotes for the Daytona 500
"I think we should be among the favorites. I'm proud of that, mainly because this is only our third year in Winston Cup. We were so dominant on the superspeedways last year that I was worried about being competitive this year with the new aerodynamic rules. But, we showed in the Budweiser Shootout that we were just as strong as we were before. I think the new rules reward the teams that worked harder and smarter over the off-season. Anybody could lead the race under the old rules, but now, the best cars will really come to the front and hopefully stay there.

"The car we're running in the 500 is the same one that we finished second with at this race last year, and then we brought it back in July and won the Pepsi 400. We took it to Talladega and won the Winston million-dollar bonus, so it has a great record already. I think it's a better car than the one we used in the Shootout. I can't really explain why, it just seems to be a magic chassis. I know Tony (Eury) Jr. and the crew guys have massaged it for more than a year, and it just seems to respond.

"It's a great track and a great race and it would be an honor to win it this year."

Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Bud Team at Daytona
Winston Cup Starts: 4 (points races only)
Best Start: 4th (Feb., 2001)
Best Finish: 1st (July, 2001)
This Race, Last Year: 2nd (led 13 laps)

Dale Jr. finished second last Sunday in the season-opening Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, leading 20 laps. It is the fourth consecutive race at Daytona that the team has finished first or second. The Budweiser team was a dominant factor last season at Daytona, leading laps in every race entered at the famed 2.5-mile Florida track. They claimed finishes of second in a photo finish in the 125-mile qualifier, second in the Daytona 500 and then an emotional victory in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in July.

Bud Pole Qualifying
The starting lineup for this event is determined by a combination of Bud Pole qualifying (held last Saturday, which placed Jimmy Johnson and Kevin Harvick on the front row) and the results of the twin 125-mile qualifying races. Dale Jr. will start in the first qualifying race this Thursday, taking the green flag from the 10th position (outside of row 5).

What to Watch
A new aerodynamic rules package has some worried about the lack of passing at the front of the field. This may also allow the top cars to pull away from the rest of the pack, allowing a safer and less-congested field barging their way to the finish line. Dale Earnhardt Inc. teams won three of the four superspeedway races last year, and this year could see the same results.

Best Seller
Dale Jr's book about his rookie season, "Driver #8" will appear in the # 11 spot in this Sunday's New York Times Best Seller list. It was # 13 last week in its debut on the prestigious chart.

-bud/dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt