Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "It's kind of nice to be leading the points again, even though I'd prefer to be up there by myself (Dale Jr. is tied with Kurt Busch for the lead with 5,210 points). Seriously, to lead the...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
"It's kind of nice to be leading the points again, even though I'd prefer to be up there by myself (Dale Jr. is tied with Kurt Busch for the lead with 5,210 points). Seriously, to lead the points this early in the "Chase" probably doesn't mean that much, because we still have a long way to go, but it sure beats the hell out of being anywhere else in the standings. I was real proud of my team at New Hampshire. The Eury's did a great job, and I think we can make a serious run for this championship."
On whether the racing is more intense in these final 10 races:
"For me mentally, it's more intense, because what we've worked so hard for is within our grasp if we can just put together a better string of races than nine other guys. Sunday was a good start. This weekend at Dover will be a whole new ball game. We've got to run good. We weren't very good there last time, but somehow we avoided all the wrecks and finished third. We tested there last week, and it went pretty well.
"I had this amazing determination and drive at the start of the year. I was just focused and we were getting the results and the finishes and we were leading the points. Then we went to Pocono and places like that. Those places really drain the determination and drive right out of you. But we got though the summer and then went back to Bristol and won that race. We had such a good weekend winning the Busch race and then the Cup race, it was instantly a huge jump in confidence. We went to California and I expected us to run poorly there. But right in the middle of the race we found something to help the car. That helps. I haven't forgotten about that. Our run at Richmond was inspirational to the team and to everyone that we're trying hard. I've gotten that drive back - that fire that I had at the start of the year that I've definitely going to have to have to win the championship. It's there when it's fun and when I get along with the people I'm working with. When things are good that's how it happens. I think we're in a streak where we're going to finish this season out pretty spectacularly and hopefully with the championship. I really feel like we can win it."
-- Dale Jr. is the points leader (tied with Kurt Busch, but tops Busch via the tie-breaker with more victories) for the first time since mid-June after scoring a third-place finish in the first of 10 races in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup Championship. It was Dale Jr.'s 10th top-three, 13th top-five, and 16th top-10 of the season, and sent him from third to first place. Dale Jr. has now been atop the standings 10 of the 27 weeks of the 2004 campaign (more than any other driver).
-- The Bud team has three top-three finishes in nine starts at Dover, including a win in 2001 and a third-place finish earlier this season. Dale Jr.'s 2001 victory came after leading nearly half the laps of the 400-lap race. Dover International Speedway is one of four "Chase" tracks where Dale Jr. has recorded at least one victory.
-- Dale Jr. has six top-six finishes in his last nine races at one-mile tracks.
-- The Bud team will use chassis #028 for the MBNA America 400, the chassis that finished 10th at Darlington and third in the June Dover race. The Bud crew tested this car last week during a one-day test session at Dover with positive results. They also tested a brand new chassis, which will serve as a back-up car this weekend.
SPEAKING OF TESTING: Following Sunday's race at Dover, the Bud team will head to Kansas Speedway for two days test sessions.