DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. / DRIVER, #8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET:
On the excitement of a new year and the season-opening Budweiser Shootout:
"I'm glad we can finally start racing. We've been testing a lot lately, mostly doing single-car runs, and that can be pretty boring. We've been testing the Car of Tomorrow quite a bit, and I'm ready to get back in our regular racecars and cut 'em loose. The Shootout is a great way to start the season. It's fun for me, because I've got some friends who are in this race, guys who are fun as hell to race against - like Tony (Stewart), Denny (Hamlin), and Elliott (Sadler). Since it's a non-points event, we can race hard without the pressure, and laugh about it when it's over."
Not everyone was laughing after last year's Shootout due to the extensive bump-drafting...
"I didn't understand why everyone was making such a big deal about it. I guess I understood their point and I wasn't saying that (bump-drafting) wasn't happening, but I always thought it was fun when you can beat and bang a little bit. I mean, this is the Shootout! It's a race! With a lot of cash! It takes about an hour-and-a-half to run, and the winner gets more than $200,000. You shouldn't be able to earn that much money in that short of time and it be easy. Denny did it the hard way last year, and he deserved every bit of it. He had a great car, and he held off the best drivers in this series. We threw everything we had at him, and he threw it right back at us. That's how you win the Budweiser Shootout."
Does this race help determine drafting partners and strategy for the Daytona 500?
"Not really. It's too short, so you don't really get a chance to work with a lot of people. Everybody wants to win, so it's not like you're going to be overly friendly in the Shootout. I remember feeling like I was going to crash about 30 times in last year's Shootout, and actually we did get into a little bit of an incident on the backstretch that hurt the front of the car. In the 500 you're a lot more patient, so you have time to figure out who to work with and who to stay away from."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of nine previous champions racing in the 2007 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. He won the Shootout in 2003, beating Jeff Gordon in a close finish. In six Shootout starts, Junior has finished no worse than seventh, and has finished first or second four times. His average Shootout finish is 3.3, best among all active drivers with more than one start.