Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "I've never won at Martinsville, but it seems we're getting closer and closer (to a win) every time we go there. Last year was pretty awesome. We led a bunch of laps and finished in the...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
"I've never won at Martinsville, but it seems we're getting closer and closer (to a win) every time we go there. Last year was pretty awesome. We led a bunch of laps and finished in the top-five in both races. It's fun to drive at that ol' place. It's a tough track, and you really have to be 'on' for 500 laps to avoid getting the car beat up. You can come in with all the confidence in the world, but it takes almost no time to be taken out of the race.
"One of my best memories of Martinsville is when we got our first top-five there (in April, 2002). That was a huge accomplishment for the team, because it was a place we had struggled. The first three or four times we raced there wasn't pretty. But we worked hard and found a set-up we could race with at smaller tracks. When we got that first top-five, it was a turning point for this team. I've even got the body of that car sitting out in my front yard. It's one of my yard ornaments."
-- Dale Jr. has a series-best four consecutive top-five finishes at Martinsville and has started in the top 10 in each of the last six races there. In his last four races at Martinsville, Dale Jr.'s average starting position is 4.5 and average finishing position is fourth. In this race last year, Dale Jr. and the brew crew started second and finished third, leading 195 laps.
-- Dale Jr. enters this weekend's race third in the Nextel Cup points standings, just 35 points behind point leader Kurt Busch. Dale Jr. has more top-five finishes (four) in 2004 than any other driver.
-- At tracks less than one mile in length, Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team have eight top-fives in the last 14 Nextel Cup races ... Last year Dale Jr. scored more points on short tracks than any other driver (880 points) ...
Some Real Horsepower: Dale Jr. was selected No. 1 by Racer Magazine's 2004 Power and Influence List, ranked ahead of the France family, Roger Penske, Tony George and others. From Racer (May, 2004): "(Dale Jr. is) the most influential presence in the American racing scene today... There's almost no limit to how far he can go now. He's already crossed the chasm from athlete to pop culture icon in a way no other driver - not even Mario (Andretti) - has before... Earnhardt Jr. is sure to solidify and enhance that role to a level once reserved for stick-and-ball sportsmen like Mantle, Montana and Michael Jordan."