Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team: "We're going to Talladega with cautious optimism. Obviously, the car we're taking is not the car we want. The car we want is in the (Daytona USA) museum. But that's cool, we've got ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- driver, No. 8 Budweiser team:
"We're going to Talladega with cautious optimism. Obviously, the car we're taking is not the car we want. The car we want is in the (Daytona USA) museum. But that's cool, we've got good superspeedway cars. We may go back to the car we won the Budweiser Shootout with (in 2003) and haven't raced since. It wouldn't surprise me a bit -- in fact I almost expect it -- if we struggle in qualifying, but we should do well in the race. We seem to have things figured out at Talladega.
"Everyone wants to talk about how much this Budweiser team has matured. Fact is, I don't know how much more maturing we can do. We're right where we need to be. We've had one bad race this year -- the one that lost us the points lead. It took five races to get it back, and we're only leading by five points. The bottom line is we're having fun."
On how the new aerodynamic rules package affects the racing at restrictor-plate tracks:
"The race at Daytona (the Daytona 500, in which Dale Jr. won) was fun. It came down to the best cars on the track racing for the win. That's the way it should be. There were just a few cautions, and (the field) got spread out. Everyone was really tight, but you were able to drive away from people. It's hard to get that at Talladega, but we'll see. They're much different tracks. Daytona is a handling track, so if you're not handling, you can fall back. Talladega is big and wide, so it's wide-open all day. I love that, but it makes it harder to pull away from the cars that may not have as much speed or handling. I could probably go out in the pace car and run in the draft here with 42 other cars... "
Would you like to try to turn laps at Talladega without a restrictor plate:
"Hell yeah. I'd love to. Just send us out there and let it fly. 230? 240 (mph)? It'd be great."
--- Dale Jr. will be attempting to win the Aaron's 499 for the third consecutive year. He has won four times in eight career Cup starts at Talladega, winning $2,954,102 in those eight starts ... The Bud team won this race last season after making a total of 17 pit stops to repair damage from a multi-car crash on lap four.
--- Dale Jr. won a track-record four consecutive Talladega races until the streak ended last October when he fell all the way to... second place. The No. 8 car finished second in October to teammate Michael Waltrip after being damaged in a chain-reaction accident on pit lane on lap 14. The team recovered from falling one lap behind on lap 60 to finish a few feet short of a fifth consecutive win.
--- Dale Jr. holds a slim lead in the Nextel Cup points standings (five points over second place Kurt Busch and 12 points ahead of third place Matt Kenseth). He regained the lead with a third-place finish at Martinsville on Sunday, his series-leading fifth top-five of the season. Dale Jr. has now led the NEXTEL Cup point standings for three weeks in 2004.
--- Dale Jr. has led in seven of his eight Cup starts - 352 laps total - at Talladega. That represents almost 25 percent of the total laps since he made his first start in 2000. (The only race he didn't lead was his first start, when he was forced to the garage following an incident before the race even started.) He has a current string of five consecutive finishes of first or second here, and six consecutive finishes in the top-10.
--- Dale Jr. will be behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chance2 Busch Series car this weekend. A two-time Busch Series champion, Dale Jr. is on a streak of four victories in his last four Busch Series starts. He had a clean sweep during this event last year, winning both races. He has a weekend sweep of Busch and Cup races already in 2004, winning the Daytona 500 and the Busch 300 back-to-back in February.
'Maxim'um Exposure: Care to see our young hero laying a flaming burnout in the red no. 8 car? Well, OK, it's only a small slot car, but he is included in the "We Want Answers" segment in the May 2004 issue of Maxim Magazine, now on newsstands. The issue includes the Maxim Hot 100 - featuring the 100 sexiest women in the world. Dale Jr. will also appear in the VH-1 special "Maxim Hot 100" later this summer. (Although, in our opinion, Mandy Moore and Josie Moran were ranked way too low, while Jessica Simpson and Christina Aguilera were rated waaaaaay too high... But you'll need to see and decide for yourself.)