Quotes from: DALE EARNHARDT JR. / Driver, ...
Quotes from: DALE EARNHARDT JR. / Driver, #8 Budweiser Chevrolet:
On entering the final weekend fifth in the point standings:
"We needed a strong run and a little luck this past weekend at Phoenix, and didn't get either one. We got too tight at the end and lost a couple spots... still finished in the top-10, but that's not nearly enough when you're trying to catch somebody. (Point leader) Jimmie Johnson's car was awesome, and they did what they had to do to go into the last race with a big advantage. Even if we would've led the most laps and won the race (Sunday at Phoenix), it would've only put a small dent into (Jimmie's) lead. I still can't complain. In the big picture, we've improved so much in one year that I'm optimistic for what we've got coming. Our cars are consistently in the top-10 each week. Tony (Eury) Jr. builds great race cars, and we've got the components to make it all happen. We'll do what we can this weekend, get as many points as we can, and see how it all turns out. We'll never quit trying."
On how to turn the fortunes at Homestead:
"It's been our worst track over the years, but that'll change this weekend. We've made really big gains on our mile-and-a-half, two-mile program in the last year, so we know we can run in the top-10 at Homestead. We had a pretty good test there a few weeks ago. (Teammate) Martin (Truex Jr.) was really fast at the test, so I think we can get the two DEI teams together and come up with a good idea on how to set up for this track."
On feeling the burn-out at season's end:
"I'm not burned out. I'm enjoying myself more this year than any year. The season can be a grind, but it goes by pretty fast too. I'll take a week or so off once we get back from New York (Nextel Cup banquet), and then I'll be ready to get back at it."
2006 OVERVIEW: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team enter the final race of the 2006 season fifth in the Nextel Cup point standings, 115 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. The Bud team is one of five teams mathematically in contention to win the Nextel Cup championship. It will mark the second time in three years that Dale Jr. enters the final weekend in contention for the title. The Bud team has one victory (Richmond), 10 top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes in 2006.
HOMESTEAD-MIAMI WEEKEND NOTEBOOK
Dale Jr.'s best finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway is 13th (Nov., 2000) but 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 19.2 at Homestead.
The Best In The Stable: The Bud team will use Chassis #39 at Homestead-Miami this weekend, a car that has scored top-10 finishes in each of its last eight races. Of those top-10s, six were top-five efforts: Michigan (third), Fontana (second), Chicago (fifth), Charlotte (fourth) and a pair of third-place finishes at Atlanta. But the decision to prepare #39 for Homestead wasn't without much deliberation, as it sustained extensive damage in a sixth-place effort at Texas eight days ago (Nov. 5) after hitting the wall on lap 166 and hopping the infield curbing on lap 331 to avoid a six-car accident. Rather than preparing a different car for season finale, crew chief Tony Eury Jr. and shop foreman Brian Cram decided to undergo weeklong "surgery" on the car. It was completely stripped of its damaged components, then given new front and rear clips, new left-side frame rails, and a new body before being sent to the paint shop on Thursday. The team will apply the finishing touches to the set-up early this week to complete the quick turn-around.
"Everyone at DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) had their hands on this car at one point or another to get it ready for Homestead," Eury Jr. said. "The fab shop, the body shop, the paint shop, and everyone in between... that car has been at every corner of DEI this past week, and it's been a total team effort to get it ready."
Double-Duty For Dale: The Nextel Cup season finale at Homestead will mark Dale Jr.'s 255th career start - and his 255th points race with Budweiser sponsorship. The day prior, however, will be Junior's first start with Budweiser colors in the Busch Series. Dale Jr., a two-time champion with 22 career victories in only 90 Busch Series starts, will race the familiar red No. 8 Budweiser paint scheme for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the Ford 300 race. Dale Jr. has two victories this season in four Busch Series starts for DEI.