Earnhardt Jr. Joliet preview

Dale Jr.: "I haven't even seen the new track but I hear it's really fast, so that's cool with me. The faster the better. We will have some extra time on Thursday to learn the track, and then hopefully we'll go out there and qualify up front, and...

Dale Jr.:

"I haven't even seen the new track but I hear it's really fast, so that's cool with me. The faster the better. We will have some extra time on Thursday to learn the track, and then hopefully we'll go out there and qualify up front, and win two in a row."

What: Tropicana 400 266 Laps / 400 miles / 1.5-mileoval / Race# 19 of 36

Where: Chicagoland Speedway Joliet,IL
When: Sunday,July 15 2:30pm
Watch: NBC-TV Pre-race:2:00 pm (All Times: Eastern) Bud Pole Qualifying: Bud Pole qualifying will be seen Friday at 4:00 on CNN/SI, the third partner with NBC and TNT for the second half of the season.

The 24-hour sports news channel will also be carrying many of the Happy Hour sessions for the remainder of the season.

What to Watch: The Chicago-area track is brand new, so expect a race that may have some crashes as drivers try to wear in a racing groove on the new surface. At many new facilities, it often takes several races to widen the groove that allows consistent side-by-side racing.

Abut Daytona:

Dale Jr.: "We had a lot of fun after the win. I was so happy for everybody in victory lane. When your sponsor is Budweiser, you know you can count on them to provide some cold ones after the race. I even poured one out on top of the race car in honor of dad, just like the rappers do it.

"After I was up in the press box, I came back down to the motorcoach and they had already delivered a big tub of Bud, all iced down and ready to go. I had a bunch of friends there with me, and Michael (Waltrip) and Steve Park and people like Edwin McCain just came over and we hung out and enjoyed the feeling. Just mellow and relaxed and happy. Really happy. I think we might have run outta beer sometime after 4 a.m."

The Numbers, Just the Numbers

In 18 races so far in 2001, Dale Jr. has one win, one Bud pole, four top-three finishes, seven top-10s, and he has led in 10 different races for a total of 290 laps.

The victory Saturday night was his third career win in NASCAR Winston Cup points races. He also won the Winston all-star race last season. Of those four wins, three have come under the lights on Saturday night: Richmond (May, 2000), the Winston (May, 2000) and now Daytona (July, 2001).

Three of his wins have also come while the team was pitting in the first pit stall nearest turn one: Texas (April, 2000), the Winston and Daytona.

In five races at Daytona this year, Dale Jr's average finish is third. He was fourth overall (second in class) in the 24 Hours of Daytona, sixth in the Budweiser Shootout, second in his 125-mile qualifying race, second in the Daytona 500 and now first in the Pepsi 400.

The victory launched Dale Jr. well above the $5 million mark in career Winston Cup earnings. In 57 races, he has won $5,231,797.

Thanks to GM Racing, here is a more complete transcript of Dale Jr's discussion in the media center following the race. He was accompanied by Budweiser No. 8 team crew chief Tony Eury.

Dale Jr. "I don't know what to say. I'm wore out. I need to thank my buddy,Tony (Eury), for hanging in there with me. I had a great car. It was 100 percent car. He (Dad) was with me tonight. I don't know how I did it. Michael helped me. I guess we're even now. I'll be crying sooner or later. I feel so good right now. I'm worn out. I dedicate this win to him. Nobody else I could dedicate it to.

"We had an awesome car. I know I led a lot of laps, but I hope the fans liked it. This car was so good, I didn't know what else to do with it. This was an awesome night. I dedicate this win to him. I want to say 'hey' to Teresa back home. I hope she's loving this 'cause we sure are."

Did you think you had a shot at the win tonight?

"I definitely did. We had such a fast car last night in Happy Hour that I could just do whatever I wanted with it. I felt like if I made the right choices that my car was good enough. My car was the best car here. I think you all saw that. I was trying just to stay in the right line and keep the rpm's up on the car and it seemed like I could get out there three or four car lengths and it would take them a lap and a half to catch back up."

On the emotions of the weekend

"It was okay. I didn't have any moments that were really any different. The very first lap I made around the race track felt different. It was kind of tough. After the first practice qualifying run, it was just like always after that. I really didn't think much about what happened here in February. When we started the race today, I was more nervous about how good my car was than anything else. I just kept my mind pretty clear. As we were running and running, I started to realize how fast and how good a car it was and I thought we might have a good chance to win. And if it played out right, I knew it was going to be a pretty big deal. It's really big. And I was just telling Tony on the way over here that we just don't know how huge this (win) is. We're just going to try and have fun with it and just try and enjoy ourselves. There's a lot of people back home that are probably real happy. We just can't wait to get there to see them.

"Once you get going, once you get the green flag, all you can do is what you can do. You try to pass the guys you can. It's really hard to stay hard calm because you're thinking about each car - how good they were in practiceand all. You're kind of picking apart each car in front of you and if he pulled in front of you you're thinking about what you would do. You try to play out every scenario that can possibly happen. But then it always ends up being the one you haven't thought of, you know. But that's what you do. I just think you always get real nervous on the cautions. I was saying to Tony (on the radio) 'Whatever happens, if we win, we should have and if we don't, we should have.' I felt like I had a car that could win and that if I didn't win that I made the wrong decision somewhere.

"The car was just flying. I can't tell you whatvTony did, but it was just faster than anybody else. I could get right tovthe front and when I got to the front, nobody could catch me. Like, MikevSkinner tried to pull out and pass and then he'd end up back there in fourth or fifth. When we'd stay in line, four or five of us could just break away. And that's something you haven't seen since the rules change. With the roof flaps and stuff they got on the cars, nobody can keep up.

"But, Tony and the guys work harder than any other team. There's more dedication in that shop right now than you'll find in any other shop. Every once in a while, you'll have a car that'll do that. It'll just dominate. It happens every once in a while, just like we had in The Winston. There wasn't a car out there within half a second of that car. And why? We don't know. I just feel fortunate it has happened to us quite often.

"When you're out on the racetrack, you really can't tell what's going on in the grandstands. When I'd pass people for the lead, I'd see that everybody has their arms raised and that kind of pumps you up. But all year long people have been pushing and pushing for us to do well. Then you start to feel a little pressure that you won't win for them and give them reason to root for you. So it's a good feeling tonight. That's why I pulled down on the front straightaway and jumped out. That was for the fans and nobody else. I led a lot of laps and it probably wasn't the best show in the world. There was a lot of good racing behind me to enjoy. I really wanted to jump up there and hear them cheer. It felt good."

"I wanted to really do some good donuts. It seems like that's a competition here lately. But I was looking at my marks, and I don't think they were that good. I could have done better. But I saw Matt's (Kenseth) when he won the 600 last year and he did like a high-speed slide instead of a donut - and that's what I was going for. You're just so excited and you have so much energy inside of you that you've just got to get it out. You can't just go right into Victory Lane. You'll fall down. You've got to do some donuts and get out and get relaxed and jump upon top of the car and put out a few yells and get comfortable.

"And when Michael pulled in behind me with two laps to go, I just knew that he was going to help me. That's all I needed was for somebody to stay behind me. And I knew he wasn't going to make a move because I helped himin the Daytona 500 and I told him that I helped him, so he owed me.

"I never would have imagined this would happen. I never would imagine being so dominant and winning this race. I can't imagine it. I can't sit here and understand it. I can't believe this is happening to me. I don't know why this is happening to me. I'm just going to stay close to my friends and to Tony and the people that make me feel good and maybe I'll figure it out."

Tony Eury: "When we unloaded, the car was fast. That made us feel good. We worked hard on two cars all winter long. We ran run in the Bud Shootout and one in the 500 in February. We went to Talladega with the Shootout car and felt it was better. Dale Jr. said he wanted to bring the 500 car back here. It tested strong and it just has always been strong. Last night in Happy Hour it was just awesome. It seemed like anything we did to it didn't even bother it. It was just fast for some reason. Some days you get that, some days you don't. And this weekend we just had a good car. They did a great job with the engine and the body and Dale Jr. did a great job of driving it.

"When the caution came out we were trying to decide whether to put on two tires or four tires. We had already made up our mind that we were going to gas and go. When the caution came out, it kind of disappointed us.When we stopped, we knew that if we had to put on any tires we had to put on four. We didn't want to take a chance of putting two on and messing up the car. We knew we were going to put on four. We didn't know how many (other drivers) was going to take on two. But the pit crew was awesome all night long. Usually no one likes the number one pit box on a superspeedway. They all bunch up in the center. But we didn't want to take a chance on getting boxed in. And that's what happened to Michael (Waltrip) a couple of times."

-Budswiser Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Steve Park