* Chevrolet drivers have won eight straight races at Talladega Superspeedway (Dale Earnhardt - 3, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 3, Jeff Gordon - 1, Bobby Hamilton - 1). * GM drivers have claimed victories in 13 of the last 15 races run at Talladega. *...
* Chevrolet drivers have won eight straight races at Talladega Superspeedway (Dale Earnhardt - 3, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 3, Jeff Gordon - 1, Bobby Hamilton - 1).
* GM drivers have claimed victories in 13 of the last 15 races run at Talladega.
* Chevrolets prepared by Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) have notched seven wins in the last nine restrictor-plate races run in the Winston Cup Series (since February 2001). Dale Earnhardt, Jr., owns four victories, including three straight at Talladega, while Michael Waltrip has won three - all at Daytona. This weekend Earnhardt, Jr., will try to become the first driver in history to win four straight races at Talladega, while Waltrip will look for his first win at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
WHEN DID YOU START TO FEEL COMFORTABLE AT THIS RACETRACK? "When I ran a Busch car I used to wreck all the time at Daytona and when I came here I wrecked all the time. The last time I was going to race here in a Busch car was in '99 - that full season we ran. I came here and just made a decision not to wreck. I just said, 'Look, I'm not going to do anything that would put me in that situation or put me in a potential situation for a crash.' I finished sixth."
IS IT A MATTER OF STAYING WITHIN WHAT THE CAR WILL DO ON THAT PARTICULAR DAY? "When you've got a race car that will do what you want it to do, you can do that. When you've got a race car that won't and you've got the mentality of wanting to be up front and the car that won't do it, sometimes you crash getting there. It just happens."
IS IT EASIER TO STAY UP FRONT HERE THAN IT IS AT DAYTONA? "It's harder here to keep the lead than it is at Daytona because it's wider. You've got a lot more racetrack to be watching. It's a little bit bigger field to watch the herd over than a small one like Daytona."
DO YOU LIKE TO MESS WITH THE FIELD A LITTLE BIT WHEN YOU'RE OUT FRONT BY GOING TO THE HIGH SIDE OF THE RACETRACK? "I just like running around the top. It's just fun. It's like, back in the '80s and stuff when they didn't have the plates on them. They were chasing them up there because the cars were running so fast. It's fun. It's fun to run up there because the car slides around a little bit. When you run around the bottom it's just bogging down and everybody is down there and you're bumper-to-bumper. When you run up top the guy behind you ain't really having to let off to keep from running over you. It's just fun running up there."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR CAR COMES UNDER MORE SCRUTINY IN THE TECH LINE BECAUSE OF THE SUCCESS YOU'VE HAD IN PLATE RACES? "I don't know about that. I'm sure NASCAR has been under a lot of pressure to keep an eye on us, so to speak. But, we ain't got nothing to hide. We just build a good race car. It's a lot of hard work."
MICHAEL WALTRIP , NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
EVERYONE WILL BE GUNNING FOR YOU AND DALE, JR., TOMORROW...WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? "We feel confident about our cars. We obviously didn't qualify like we hoped we would. But, man, when the race starts it is a whole different set of circumstances that will dictate who is up front, and I just feel good about my car. I like the way it ran in practice.
"We need to figure out why we slowed down so much in qualifying, but it really isn't a big deal. We wanted to be first and once you can't get first, it really takes a lot of the premium off of a good qualifying spot here at Talladega. Now at Daytona, it seems to be more important because it's closer and tighter. But here, you can come from about anywhere and grab the lead. The NAPA Chevy should be part of the story on Sunday and that is what you hope for."
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DRIVER IN QUALIFYING AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DRIVER IN THE RACE "You're only running 185 miles an hour (in qualifying), where this track was designed to run 230 or 240, so really it's not that difficult. But, conversely, when the race starts it is the hardest job there is in our sport - trying to figure out how to position yourself to get toward the front and be able to have success on race day.
"It's definitely a flip of the coin, where you look at one side for qualifying and the other side where you just load the driver up and ask them to go out there and perform without any mistakes for 500 miles in order to try and win.
"We earn our money on Sunday, but we don't earn much of it (on Friday)."