Earnhardt Jr impressed by California fans

Dale Jr. Impressed by Californians FONTANA, Calif. (February 22, 2005) - It takes a lot to knock the socks off of one of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competitors, and Californians have conquered that feat with one of the sports most popular ...

Dale Jr. Impressed by Californians

FONTANA, Calif. (February 22, 2005) - It takes a lot to knock the socks off of one of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competitors, and Californians have conquered that feat with one of the sports most popular drivers - Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In a media advance to help promote California Speedway's Auto Club 500, that the driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet will be competing in, Earnhardt talked candidly about the Southern California market place and race fans.

With 18 million people residing in the five counties that surround the Fontana, Calif., motorsports facility, there's a lot to be learned about the sport and adapting what was once a predominately Southern lifestyle. For Earnhardt, it doesn't seem so difficult.

"The automobile is huge, and to be out there racing it, it's almost Apple Pie, you know as American as Apple Pie is to me," he said. "To me, everyone should embrace it. People who are like, 'its just cars going around in circles', because that's the case half the time, but there's a lot of other stuff going on at the track that they don't see or they don't get at the time of the day [when they are there]."

Then again, Southern California seems very different from what Earnhardt is used to. He said, "Out here, you have to wait for everyone to decide [racing] is cool and then the rest of the crowd will follow suit. There's a lot of different things out here that are occupying people and racing just isn't the biggest yet. When you are going to come into a market like California or LA, you have to bring your best product. We want to give them the best show we can."

Earnhardt has competed at California Speedway since it opened in 1997, first in the NASCAR Busch Series when he secured a race win in 1998 and a pole position in 1999 and now in the NEXTEL Cup Series. Earlier this month, he participated in a two-day test session at the 2-mile, D-shaped oval, which brought out a large crowd of race fans.

"I was really amazed by how many people came out to the test," he said. "I have never seen anything like that before, and this is California. To have 7,000 people come out and watch, that blows me away because we are just testing. That's the boringest part of our job and people were checking it out and we weren't in North Carolina - it's kind of crazy. I think that says a lot about the fans here, there are people everywhere that are hardcore, dedicated fans. I was amazed by that and hopefully the turn out for the race will be just as impressive.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to California Speedway for the second race of the 2005 season, the Auto Club 500 on Sunday, February 27. Come see what the racing phenomenon is all about and catch a glimpse of Earnhardt as he tours the superspeedway. Tickets are $65 and $105. Get an in depth look at the racing world with a pre-race weekend pit pass for $55.

For ticket and event information, call 800-944-RACE [7223] or visit www.californiaspeedway.com.

-cs-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr.