Daytona 500: Dale Earnhardt Jr preview

Earnhardt Jr Quotes How is your car now that qualifying is over and you've had a chance to run in the draft? "I'm telling ya, it's pretty good. The way it was in the first practice (on Wednesday), really fast, one of the best cars out here. I...

Earnhardt Jr Quotes

How is your car now that qualifying is over and you've had a chance to run in the draft?

"I'm telling ya, it's pretty good. The way it was in the first practice (on Wednesday), really fast, one of the best cars out here. I can't figure out for the life of me why we don't run good when we're doing qualifying laps and running by ourselves. We were way, way down on horsepower, and Richie Gilmore (Director of Motorsports at DEI and former head engine builder) went back to the shop Sunday night (after Bud Pole Qualifying) to work on finding some more horsepower. I'm really satisfied with what we got now and looking forward to the Duel race and the big race on Sunday."

What is it about this car that's got you smiling?

"It's fast. We tried some stuff in the second practice (on Wednesday) that made it too loose. I was on the verge of crashing. But it seems like when someone gets behind me, I get a really big push. I can feel it, and that's good. I've heard that some of these guys out here are having to lift, and I haven't lifted yet. If you have to lift, that's not good."

Should we expect to see you drafting again with teammates Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr., and even perhaps your brother Kerry in the Duel 150s?

"Yeah, if it works out that way. I'd like to work with my brother a little bit. He's not locked in the race, and I'd like to help him all I can. But it's hard when the tires wear out. You've got to go wherever the car and tires take you. You slide all around so much, it's hard enough to keep control, much less help somebody. But I'll do the best I can."

Having won last year's Daytona 500, how much are you enjoying this Daytona Speedweeks?

"We won the race last year, and now we can come in here and enjoy it. You don't have to really worry about something going wrong. When we came here before, we hadn't won the race and worried about practice and qualifying and not blowing the motor and getting all the way to the end of the race. Now you get to enjoy it. It would be awesome to win again. But like I said, when I won the 500, the first feeling I got was relief. It wasn't jubilation, screaming or excitement. It was relief. It was like escaping something. Like being let out of prison after 13 years or something. Maybe it's because we get so much attention. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win, but everyone always says, 'I picked you to win it." So, when I won it, it was relief. And I watched my Dad run it and lose it a lot and finally win it. So I didn't want to be one of the guys who are retired and hadn't won that race."

Defending Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to Daytona International Speedway, site of two of his 15 career victories and six top-10s in 10 starts. Dale Jr.'s Daytona 500 victory paved the way to a career-best six-win season. It also capped a 2004 Speedweeks that consisted of three victories (Twin-125 Qualifying race, Busch Series race, and Daytona 500) and a runner-up finish (Budweiser Shootout) in five races.

NO RESTRICTIONS HERE: Dale Jr. has won in over one-third of his career restrictor-plate starts, scoring seven victories in 20 races. All of these wins have been achieved in his last 15 plate races. Last season Dale Jr. was the only driver to score a top-five finish in all four restrictor-plate races (two of those were victories). He scored 725 points in restrictor-plate races, the second time in four years that he posted the most "plate" points. Dale Earnhardt Inc. teams have won 11 of the last 16 restrictor-plate races dating back to 2001.

DAYTONA DOMINANCE: In Cup races alone, Dale Jr. has competed in 10 races at Daytona, scoring two victories and six top-10 finishes. He has scored four top-10 finishes in his last five races at Daytona. Non-points, Busch Series and 24-hour races included, Dale Jr. has nine wins in 27 career races at Daytona. He and his late father, seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, have won a combined 43 races at Daytona.

DUEL QUALIFYING RACE NOTE: Dale Jr. won his qualifying race last year, becoming only the eighth driver to win the qualifying race and the Daytona 500 in the same year. It was also the first time a driver has swept the two races since his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., did so in 1998.

HEAVY CHEVY: Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the last 15 Daytona 500s.

Daytona superlatives for the Bud Team:
    * Dale Jr. has finished seventh or better in the last three races at Daytona.
    * Dale Jr. has led laps in the last five races at Daytona for a total of 157 laps.
    * The Bud team has started in the top-10 in each of the last six point races at Daytona and in eight of 10 overall. Unrestricted Success:
    * Dale Jr. has competed in 20 career restrictor-plate races, posting seven victories and 14 top-10 finishes.
    * The Bud team has finished no worse than seventh in the last seven restrictor-plate races, including a win at Talladega last October.
    * The red Budweiser Chevy has led laps in the last 11 restrictor-plate races and in 16 of the last 17 (totaling 766 laps).


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Michael Waltrip , Martin Truex Jr.