Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "I don't run good at California, so I'm not too pumped up about going there. During the week I'll psyche myself up and think positive thoughts, so by Friday I'll have myself talked into ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
"I don't run good at California, so I'm not too pumped up about going there. During the week I'll psyche myself up and think positive thoughts, so by Friday I'll have myself talked into thinking I might be able to get the pole. That's kind of how it works when you don't run good somewhere. For a while it seemed like we were really making good strides at California. We'd been in some crashes in the past, but the car always seemed to be fast. We've had a brutal time trying to figure out this new tire this year, and it seems the mile-and-a-half, two-mile tracks are the ones that are really giving us the most trouble. We haven't had one good race on a two-miler this year. I'm looking forward to seeing how much grip the track has at night. It seemed to me we were flying around on ice when we were there last time."
Despite Dale Jr's claims to the contrary, the No. 8 Budweiser team has finished 19th or better in four of its five races at California Speedway, with a pair of top-10s. Dale Jr. scored his career-best finish at Fontana in 2001, when he started 38th and overcame a lap-down deficit to finish third. Dale Jr. is one of only three drivers to post top-10 starts in the last three races at California Speedway (Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace are the others).
Dale Jr. became the third driver to clinch a spot in the "Chase for the Championship" Saturday with a 190-point effort at Bristol. He currently sits third in the Nextel Cup standings, 75 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. On the season, Dale Jr. has four wins, 11 top-fives, and 14 top-10s. His earnings total $5,264,970 through 24 races, making him the first driver to surpass the $5 million mark this year.
NIGHT OWLS: The Bud team has finished in the top-10 in 12 of the last 15 night races. Overall, Dale Jr. has competed in 20 career night events, with four wins, nine top-fives and 14 top-10s. He has also started in the top-10 in nine of his last 11 races under the lights.
SEPTEMBER CHARGE: Traditionally, the month of September has been one of the better months for the Bud team with an average finish of 14.28, bested only by October (14.25) and April (11.89).
VARIETY SHOW: Dale Jr.'s four wins in 2004 have been anything but similar: Daytona (2.5-mile restrictor-plate track), Atlanta (1.5-mile high-banked tri-oval), Richmond (three-quarter mile flat track), and Bristol (half-mile, steeply banked, concrete oval). Additionally, two of the wins (Richmond and Bristol) have come under the lights, and two took place on Sundays (Daytona and Atlanta). Dale Jr. now has 13 career victories, with seven of them coming on non-restrictor plate courses. The 13th win ties him with the late Tim Richmond for 24th in all-time Cup race victories.