DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO UPDATE: Per Budweiser Team Rep: Junior got in and out of the car on his own power, and was 19th on the sheet at the end of the first practice session. The plan for Sunday's race is for...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
UPDATE: Per Budweiser Team Rep: Junior got in and out of the car on his own power, and was 19th on the sheet at the end of the first practice session. The plan for Sunday's race is for Junior to go the distance - assuming he feels up to the task. He still feels more comfortable sitting in the car than he does standing.
John Andretti will stand by as the relief driver if Junior requires one. The team has a foam seat insert on hand for Andretti, and they will again use the special belt configuration. Surgical tubing is attached to the seat harness that works like a spring to make unhooking, hooking, and adjusting the belts a much easier and quicker process. It's the same set-up that was used last weekend at Loudon when Martin Truex Jr. and Junior swapped seats during the race.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
"It's certainly exciting for us with the momentum we've got and the way the chemistry is working for the team right now. It's important for us to keep that going for the next seven or eight races so that when we go into those last 10 races we've got that momentum on our side."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE GOT THE SAME CHEMISTRY WHEN YOU WON CHAMPIONSHIPS? "Yeah, I think so. We're winning races. We're upfront. The point system is so much different now. I would think that if anybody has that kind of chemistry and momentum to this point in the season, I would have to say it is Jimmie Johnson. He's got a good points lead. If the point system weren't different this year, he would be in a very comfortable place to win the championship. I'm not really looking for that same feeling I've had in the past. I'm really looking to put solid finishes together and really utilize the tests we have coming up and really charge hard like we never have before in those last 10 races."
EVEN IF YOU'RE IN NINTH OR 10TH PLACE, YOU STILL HAVE A SHOT AT IT NOW "The guys who are sixth through 10th
or maybe even 12th or 13th right now
their main goal is to be in the top 10. That's a fight in itself. Once they get in the top 10, any one of those guys has a shot at the championship. There's no doubt about that."
IN THE FINAL TOP 10, ARE YOU RACING FOR POINTS OR ARE YOU RACING FOR WINS? IF YOU HAVE ONE DNF, ARE YOU DONE? "One DNF and yeah, you're in trouble. I think you've got to race extremely hard
with hard work, dedication, and effort every time you're in the car. You've really got to be on top of your game. As far as taking extra risks, no. I think top five's are still going to do it."
HOW WAS DELAYED PRACTICE WITH THE WEATHER AND FOG - AND HOW WAS THE CAR? "During the one-hour practice it was very overcast and foggy when we first went out there. The track was really fast as the track temperature warmed up a little bit and my car got really loose. We made some adjustments there. We are pretty solidly in the top five in practice and I want to make sure we get into the top five in qualifying. We drew a great number - a late number (39th) - so everything is going to get pushed back. We'll just keep an eye on this weather."
SHOULD THIS RACE BE SHORTENED? "This is one of the biggest race tracks we have. If you look at the lap times we run here, they are the slowest lap time that we have on any oval track that we run. When you take 500 miles at a long race track that takes you longer to get around, it's too long of a race. Attrition becomes an issue. Fuel mileage sometimes becomes an issue. I think it would be a much better race if it was 400 miles."
WITH THIS BEING KIND OF A FUEL MILEAGE RACE, DOES THE POSSIBILITY OF A GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISH ALTER YOUR STRATEGY? "I don't think we can really bet and gamble on that. We've really got to play it out as a 500 miles race. You're always saving and conserving as much fuel as you possibly can, but if you come into your fuel window at a point where you've got to pit, and that's the only caution you know of that's going to be coming out and that's going to get you to the last lap of the race, you've got to take that strategy and gamble on the fact of whether there's a green-white-checkered. If it does happen, you've got to hope that you've conserved enough fuel somewhere along the way to make it."
ON GOING TO INDIANAPOLIS NEXT WEEK "I've felt like last week was one of the better tests we've had at Indianapolis. I didn't test there last year when we regretted it when we went back there. We were really far off qualifying.
"I thought we made a pretty good qualifying run there before we left. We've always been pretty good there in the race. I'd like to get a better starter position, which is why we really focused a lot on the qualifying while we were there.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL MEMORIES OF THE BRICKYARD? "Nothing will ever stand out more than that first win back in '94. It was just incredible being there. The atmosphere was something you just couldn't describe. Being at that race for the first time, being the driver and wanting to race on that race track for so many years, watching your heroes race on that track and then getting a chance to race on it and then winning. It's just mind-boggling.