Bad start no problem for Earnhardt Jr. By Shawn A. Akers LAS VEGAS (March 1, 1999) It takes more than a couple of little wrecks to get Dale Earnhardt Jr. worried. The defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion has gotten...
Bad start no problem for Earnhardt Jr. By Shawn A. Akers
LAS VEGAS (March 1, 1999) It takes more than a couple of little wrecks to get Dale Earnhardt Jr. worried.
The defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champion has gotten off to a rough start in 1999 by being involved in accidents in the season's opening rounds at Daytona and Rockingham. But it's nothing the driver of the No. 3 ACDelco Chevrolet hasn't seen before.
Last season, Earnhardt Jr. began the season by finishing 37th and 16th at Daytona and Rockingham, respectively, and then went on to win seven races and the series title in convincing fashion.
"Yeah, we went through the same thing last year," said Earnhardt Jr., who finished 14th at Daytona and 35th at Rockingham to open the 1999 campaign. "We finished about the same places in the first two races last year, so we really aren't too upset or depressed or down about it.
"We've just had some trouble so far. I've enjoyed everything I've done so far. We've had some bad things happen, we've been in some wrecks and we've torn up some race cars. But really, it's nothing we ain't seen before. It's nothing new to us. We've seen this, we've been through this and we'll bounce right back. It's no problem. It's a little bit tougher, and the competition certainly is a little bit tougher than it was last year, but we think we've got it covered."
After two races, Earnhardt Jr. sits in 17th place in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings and has fallen 161 points behind leader Randy LaJoie. Earnhardt Jr.'s nemesis of a year ago, Matt Kenseth, is off to a solid start this year and is in second place in the point standings, 10 points behind LaJoie.
"He's got a really good team, and he's a big asset to that team and how well it's doing," Earnhardt Jr. said of LaJoie. "He's going to be hard to beat. But I don't think it's going to be any tougher for us to accomplish what we did last year. We just have to keep going. We think we can win some more races than we did last year, hopefully we can do that."
While Daytona and Rockingham have not been kind to Earnhardt Jr. during his NASCAR Busch Series career, Las Vegas was most likely a turning point for him in 1998. He was edged by Jimmy Spencer by .211 seconds in last year's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and that started him on a run of three straight top-10 finishes before he scored his first career NASCAR Busch Series victory in the Coca-Cola 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt Jr. will try to go one better this Saturday in the Sam's Town 300 and earn his first win of the season.
"We really look forward to Las Vegas, and we're looking forward to the rest of the year," he said. "This is about the time where things started kinda rolling for us last year, and we expect the same thing this year. The cars are looking good, the guys are doing a great job with them at the shop, and we're really prepared going into the next few races."
Jeff Gordon will enter his new Ray Evernham-Brooke Gordon-owned No. 24 Pepsi Chevrolet in the Sam's Town 300. If he's able to make the field for the race, it will be the first NASCAR Busch Series race Gordon has run since 1992.
Earnhardt Jr., who said he enjoyed having the weekend off last weekend, expects Gordon, along with NASCAR Winston Cup Series regulars Jeff Burton, Mark Martin and Joe Nemechek, to be a big factor in the Sam's Town 300 on Saturday.
"It was great to have some time off, especially since I had to heal up a little bit from some pretty bad bruises from that Rockingham wreck, but I'm ready to get back at it," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It gave me a little time to get back feeling pretty good, and I'm excited about this weekend.
"As soon as we roll off the trailer and get a couple of hours of practice in (on Friday morning) and get it all sized up, we'll figure out what we're going to do and we'll get things going. We feel pretty good about Las Vegas."
Source: NASCAR Online