Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "Write this down - I'm excited about going to a road course. Hard to believe, right? We've come a long way on the road courses. We just missed a top-10 here last year, then had a great run at ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
"Write this down - I'm excited about going to a road course. Hard to believe, right? We've come a long way on the road courses. We just missed a top-10 here last year, then had a great run at Watkins Glen (finishing third and leading 11 laps). I used to dread certain tracks on the schedule, but the team is getting better all the time and I feel a lot more comfortable at most of the places I used to hate. My confidence level is higher after last year's performance and then running in the 24 Hours of Daytona. We've tested a lot to make sure we're ready to go."
On the points race:
"At this stage, with the new point system, it's mainly about bragging rights. It's great to be the leader, and we want to be the leader, but we've struggled as a team for several weeks and yet we're still less than 10 points behind. We're not very happy or satisfied right now. We're a hard bunch to please, but nobody's going to work harder."
Last year Dale Jr. and the Budweiser team twice achieved career-best finishes on road courses, finishing 11th at Sonoma and then third at Watkins Glen in August. Dale Jr. has never led at Infineon Raceway and is searching for his first top-10 at the California road course.
The Bud team enters the Save Mart 350 on the heels of a 21st-place showing at Michigan, only his third finish worse than 11th this year. It dropped Dale Jr. out of the points lead for the first time since April 4th at Texas (a string of seven straight weeks atop the championship standings). He now trails Jimmie Johnson by seven points. In 15 events this year, Dale Jr. has three wins (tied for series-best), eight top fives (second-most of any driver) and 11 top-10s (tied with Johnson for series high). He also has led nine races.
Although this is the first NEXTEL Cup Series race on a road course this year, it's not the first road course event for Dale Jr. In February he teamed up with Andy Wallace and Tony Stewart to drive a Crawford Prototype to a fifth-place finish in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. The trio led the race for more than 17 hours before a parts failure knocked them out of the lead in the final 20 minutes. Last month Dale Jr. was behind the wheel of an American Le Mans Series version of the Corvette C5-R, testing for the upcoming Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma in which he will compete with teammate Boris Said on July 16-18. The Budweiser team has prepared for this weekend's race with test sessions at Virginia International Raceway.