Dale Earnhardt Jr. / Driver, ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. / Driver, #8 Budweiser Chevrolet:
"Martinsville is a place where I think I've improved as much or more than at any other track since I joined the Cup series. Our first few races here, it was like a circus. We were flying through the air and smashing into about everything. It's funny now, but at the time it was agonizing and frustrating. We hadn't run there in the Busch Series, so it was a huge learning curve. Then it was like turning on a light switch - the crew gave me some great cars, we started qualifying really well and rang-up five straight top-five finishes. Now, I'm surprised when we don't run in the top-five. It's a lot like when we go to Richmond or Talladega - we walk in the track and we just expect to be up front. I wondered if things would change with the Car of Tomorrow, but we went in there and led a lot of laps in the spring race (the Bud team earned the 10 bonus points for most laps led in April, heading the field for 137 laps). The thing that's missing? That's easy to see. We've had a lot of really good days but we've never been able to close the deal. I'd be really happy to trade all of those laps led and those top-fives and all of the Martinsville hot dogs I've eaten in the past for a win there this week."
Dale Jr. and the No. 8 Bud Team at Martinsville: Previous Starts: 15 Best Start: 2nd (Oct. 2001 and April 2003) Best Finish: 3rd (April 2003 and April 2004) This Race, Last Year: ST: 7th / FIN: 22nd / Led 35 laps Top-Five Finishes: 7 Top-10 Finishes: 7 Laps Led: 624 laps / 6 races led Top-10 Starts: 10 Average Start: 12.07 Average Finish: 14.27 Career Winnings: $1,456,659
Dale Jr. led 137 laps - the most of any driver - on his way to a fifth-place finish earlier this season at Martinsville... He recorded five consecutive top-five finishes at the pint-sized half-mile oval between April 2002 and April 2004... Dale Jr. has seven top-five finishes in the last 11 starts at Martinsville - and those seven are also his only top-10 finishes... According to NASCAR's loop data stats, Dale Jr. has a series-best career ranking at Martinsville for 'Green Flag Passes' and also leads the league in 'Quality Passes' (passes of cars in the top-15 positions under green flag conditions) since those stats have been compiled... Among the many top-fives, perhaps the most impressive race for the Bud team was in April 2006 when they didn't lead a single lap. Starting near the back of the pack, Junior was swept into a lap-two multi-car smash-up, but was able to remain on the lead lap due to quick and frantic pit work by the Bud team. Driving a battered car missing fenders and other key components, Dale Jr. somehow managed to climb back to fourth place by lap 315 - only to be caught in another crash not of his own doing. After additional repairs, Dale Jr. clawed back to fifth place in the final laps of the race following a total of 15 pit stops...
This Bud's for You:
In the final weeks of the season, we will commemorate the long and successful pairing of Dale Jr., Budweiser and Dale Earnhardt Inc. by including a small slice of the most memorable moments and the greatest Dale Jr. quotes since 1999.
The victory that still generates the biggest emotional response among Dale Jr. fans is his dominating win at Daytona in July 2001. The Bud car - carrying a special white paint scheme in honor of MLB's All-Star game - led 116 of the 160 laps to take the checkered flag in the first race at Daytona since the tragic crash that took his father's life. The team - particularly then-car-chief Tony Eury Jr. - managed their February heartbreak by focusing special attention on the Daytona car and bringing their most prepared, most perfect superspeedway machine to the July race. After dominating all evening, Dale Jr. restarted in seventh place with six laps remaining, but using a near-perfect handling car and his considerable drafting skills, he swept into the lead in the final laps and then celebrated with his then-teammate Michael Waltrip, who finished second, his team and the fans by getting out of his car in the infield grass and climbing onto the roof of the Bud machine.
Memorable Quotes from Daytona (July 2001):
"I wanna dedicate this one to my dad. This one is for him. We all stuck together and we're getting through the rough time together as a team - Tony (Eury) my crew chief, Tony (Eury) Jr., Ty Norris and everybody at DEI... This is great! Unbelievable! I love coming to Daytona, and to win here it... it just means a lot. I thought about my dad, but I tried to keep my mind clear all weekend. I think the first lap or two of practice, it felt different, it felt very strange. That was really tough for me, but after that the car was so good that I was able to concentrate and just do what I am paid to do."
"I was so happy to see Michael (Waltrip) behind me. I knew he was gonna help me. I helped him - I committed to him - at the 500, and I TOLD him that I helped him! (laughs) So, I knew he was right behind me supporting me tonight and he did. He was so happy when we were jumping on the cars. He's had a rough year, so I was happy for him as well. "
Looking down from the media center onto the skid marks where he had done donuts in the grass after the win: "I'm looking at those marks, and they don't look very good from here. I hope they looked better to you guys when I was doin' them. When Matt Kenseth won at Charlotte last year, he did some sort of high-speed slide though the grass, so I was kinda going for that, mixed with some donuts. You HAVE to do stuff like that after you win because you've got so much energy that you have to let it out. You gotta let it out like that by spinning around and jumping out of the car and letting out some yells! Otherwise, if you don't, you get to victory lane and you'll just get outta the car and fall over or lose consciousness."
"The big tire marks on the right side of the car are from Matt! He came up beside me after the race and bumped me, but we touched wheels and we both were kinda thrown up in the air. That was wild!"
The New Guys:
In addition to Tony Gibson's recent promotion to crew chief, several new faces will be seen in the garage area with the No. 8 Bud team. Mike Moore, a native of Massachusetts, is the team's new car chief. Moore comes to DEI from the Wood Brothers organization. Since 1990, he has worked for some of the top NASCAR teams, including Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports... Also joining Team 8 in the role of mechanic is Tim Andrews, a 24-year old up-and-coming driver (he has run a partial ARCA schedule this season) and the son of long-time NASCAR crew chief Paul Andrews. Paul Andrews formerly helmed the No. 1 team at Dale Earnhardt Inc. with driver Steve Park, earning two Cup wins for DEI.