Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: Dale, you'll be making your 200th Nextel Cup start this weekend at Daytona... "Yeah, I always look forward to going to Daytona. It's no secret it's my favorite track on the circuit, and it's...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
Dale, you'll be making your 200th Nextel Cup start this weekend at Daytona...
"Yeah, I always look forward to going to Daytona. It's no secret it's my favorite track on the circuit, and it's cool that I'll be making my 200th start there. It'll make for a good story if we win. I'm looking forward to getting back to Daytona, because we learned a lot from (teammate) Michael (Waltrip's) run there in the 500. We finished third (in the Daytona 500), but the 15 team was really the dominant car all day before they blew up a motor. I think we'll be even better because it's a night race, and that always seems to play in our favor. It makes the car more consistent over the long run."
Is it hard to believe you'll have 200 Cup starts under your belt?
"I was kind of surprised when I heard this would be my 200th start.JIt's a neat little milestone, but I don't know that it's a huge deal. Hell, Richard Petty had 200 wins."
What have been some of your proudest moments as a Nextel Cup driver?
"Winning the Daytona 500 is definitely my proudest moment.JThat's a race you dream all your life of winning, and to race my buddy Tony (Stewart) for the win was really exciting. Winning The Winston (all-star race in 2000) was a big moment, because we were a rookie team, and I passed my dad and Dale Jarrett -- two people I admire probably more than anybody else -- to win the race. That was something I'll never forget."
How much does the "Chase for the Championship" play in your mind this season?
"We can't worry about the points or the Chase... We just need to concentrate on running well. That's the only way we're going to make any difference in the points. These guys work just as hard every week as when we're doing well, so it just makes me want to win that much more."
2005 SEASON OVERVIEW:
The #8 Budweiser team with Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters the 17th race of the season 18th in the Nextel Cup point standings (1,707 points / 143 points out of Chase eligibility and 216 points out of the top-10). Dale Jr. has scored three top-fives and five top-10s in 16 races.
Daytona International Speedway is one of four tracks where Dale Jr. has scored multiple Cup victories, with wins in the Pepsi 400 (2001) and the Daytona 500 (2004). He has five top-fives, seven top-10s and nine top-10 starts in 11 races. Junior has finished third or better in his last three races there. Including all non-points, Busch Series and 24-hour races at Daytona, Dale Jr. has nine wins in 31 career races. He and his late father, seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, have won a combined 43 races at the famed superspeedway.
NO RESTRICTIONS HERE:
With seven victories in 22 starts, Dale Jr. has won nearly one-third of the races he has entered at restrictor-plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega). 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 18 restrictor-plate races dating back to 2001.
Daytona superlatives for the Bud Team:
* Dale Jr. has finished seventh or better in the last four races at Daytona.
* Dale Jr. has led laps in the last six races at Daytona for a total of 150 laps.
* The Bud team has started in the top-10 in each of the last seven point races at Daytona and in nine of 11 overall.J
* Dale Jr. has competed in 22 career restrictor-plate races, posting seven victories and 15 top-10 finishes.
* The Bud team has finished no worse than 15th in the last nine restrictor-plate races, including a win at Talladega last October.
* The red Budweiser Chevy has led laps in the last 13 restrictor-plate races (514 laps) and in 18 of the last 19 (totaling 771 laps).