Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "We dug ourselves a pretty big hole at Darlington (finished 11th after a dead-battery with 24 laps to go knocked the Bud team out of the top 10), and it will be difficult to climb out and still...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
"We dug ourselves a pretty big hole at Darlington (finished 11th after a dead-battery with 24 laps to go knocked the Bud team out of the top 10), and it will be difficult to climb out and still win this championship. We're going to have to be the best team at Homestead as well as the luckiest. We're going to try our best. If we don't win it, it won't be due to lack of effort. I think the Boston Red Sox kind of showed everybody this year what a team can achieve by not giving up, so we'll go into Homestead as a team still with a chance to win the championship."
On his test session at Homestead last week:
"We tested pretty good there. There were some guys who were better. We were having a tough time getting the car to keep turning. It just tightens up so quickly there. Martin (Truex) got in the car and ran some fast laps in it. He's got a lot of talent. He and Tony Jr. work really good together. He just got in the car for five minutes and we worked on some things with him. He ran some pretty good laps late in the day. The track is fast in the morning and late in the day. You try not to think you're better than you are. I was pretty happy with the test. I think we can be a lot better. We learned a lot of things we didn't get to try right there at the end. I think we'll be better when we go back."
Heading into the final race of the 2004 season, Dale Jr. is one of five drivers within 82 points of the lead, making this the closest points race with one event remaining since the point system was introduced in 1975. Dale Jr. is in fourth place and trails leader Kurt Busch by 72 points. For the year, the Budweiser team has scored six wins, 16 top-fives, 21 top-10s, and has led in 19 races for a total of 1,133 laps. Two of the six victories have come in the 10-race Chase for the Championship (Talladega and Phoenix).
Dale Jr.'s best finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway is 13th (Nov., 2000) but perhaps his best performance was in 2002 when he started second and led 46 laps before a broken valve spring dropped the No. 8 Chevy to seven cylinders. He finished that race 21st. Dale Jr. has an average finish of 18.25 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which ranks sixth among the Chase drivers.
Additional notes: The car the Bud team will use at Homestead is the same one used in both Charlotte races (finishing sixth and third) and also Kansas (finishing ninth) -- At 1.5-mile tracks this year, the Bud team has five top-10s in eight races, including a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 14.