Fontana: Dale Earnhardt Jr preview

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "It feels good to get another top-five under our belt. We're looking at the big picture here. It would've been nice to go to California with our third win, but it seems pretty ridiculous to be...

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:

"It feels good to get another top-five under our belt. We're looking at the big picture here. It would've been nice to go to California with our third win, but it seems pretty ridiculous to be upset about a second-place finish, especially when you've just increased your points lead (from five to 94 points) and had as much fun as we did on Sunday. I'm proud of the guys, especially after Sunday's race (at Talladega). I felt like we handled ourselves well, we accepted what was given to us, and we moved on.

"Last year we had a pretty good race at California. We had to start in the back of the field (because of changing engines before the race), but we still finished sixth. We went a lap down, got back on the lead lap, had to race like hell at the end just to get into the top 10... it was crazy! We've been caught in some crashes here in the past, but that red car has always been really fast there."

-- Dale Jr. has competed in four races at California Speedway, scoring two top-10 finishes. His best California finish, third, came in 2001. Dale Jr. finished sixth in this race one year ago.

-- Dale Jr. now holds the biggest points-lead of his career with a 94-point margin between himself and second-place Jimmie Johnson. He has been the points leader after four of nine races this year ... Driver No. 8 has posted a series-leading six top-five finishes, and his seven top-10s are equaled only by Jeff Gordon (Dale Jr. also holds a series-best seven top-10 starts) ... He is currently riding a string of three straight top-five finishes, which ties a career-best streak.

-- Dale Jr. is the only driver to lead seven of the nine NEXTEL Cup events, and has led 439 laps, more than any other driver.

One-Fourth of a Dollar: Dale Jr. got 11 of 19 first-place votes in the first-quarter balloting for the 2004 Driver of the Year award, which is presented by Speed Channel. Dale Jr. received 135 points in the balloting by a panel of media covering motorsports and an online fan vote. Sprint car driver Steve Kinser was second with four first-place votes and 97 points.

Healthy Dose of Junior: The driver of the Budweiser Chevrolet is featured in the May 2004 issue of Men's Health Magazine, on newsstands now. Says Driver No. 8, "I used to not even pay attention to my health. I'd eat what I wanted to eat, I went wherever I wanted to go, raised hell, didn't sleep. But it takes away from how quick-witted you are and how sharp you are in the race car. And I quit smoking over New Year's. I was real proud of that."

-dei/budweiser-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Steve Kinser