Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Hopes New Surface Will Make
For Smooth Sailing In Oct. 8 UAW-Ford 500
Building consistency across the spectrum of tracks on the circuit is what landed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 8 team in contention for a championship, but that has made it all the more critical that the five-time Talladega Superspeedway winner maintain his status here as the track's most successful active driver next weekend in the Oct. 8 UAW-Ford 500 - race four in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
"We were losing a lot of points at the intermediate speedways and the big flat tracks, and we realized that if we're going to win a championship, we've got to get better at those tracks. There are a lot more of those races than there are restrictor-plate races, so it was an obvious decision to focus more on the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I still think we are one of the top three or four teams at restrictor-plate tracks, but we're clearly not the dominator we once were. Talladega is a very competitive race track, and it demands 100 percent from the driver. That's why I love it. It's very rewarding to win there."
Earnhardt, Jr.'s stats this year and resulting place in the Chase show the fruit of the team's labor toward improving consistency: At California, he posted 11th and 2nd place finishes, the latter a career-best for him at the 2-mile track. He also posted his first career top-five on the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, finishing third earlier in the year and then posting a sixth place finish last month. He followed up his 2005 victory at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway with a fifth place finish, and posted a career-best Indianapolis Motor Speedway finish of sixth at the 2.5- mile track.
Earnhardt, Jr. hopes a new racing surface at Talladega will make for even smoother sailing in the UAW-Ford 500.
"Any time you repave your surface, I think it helps," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "Talladega is definitely one of my favorite tracks. I've won a lot of races there, my dad won a lot of races there, and I was real happy to hear they were going to repave it. I don't think it will change a lot in terms of set-up. I mean, the teams that are good at restrictor-plate racing will be right up there, like always."
That said, it's usually safe to count Earnhardt, Jr. and the No. 8 team among those that will be "right up there" in the Oct. 8 UAW-Ford 500.
In addition to all that he and his team have on the line next weekend, Earnhardt, Jr. agreed the upcoming fall race weekend here could be one of the most exciting weekends in Talladega Superspeedway history, given the new racing surface and the debut of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at the track in the Talladega 250 on Saturday, Oct. 7. While he said his two full-time jobs - driving in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and operating a full-time Busch Series team - do not allow him the luxury of competing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, he'll definitely be watching.
"My brother Kerry drives in the truck series, and I'm always watching him to see how he's doing. The idea of trucks racing at Talladega is just as intriguing as the first time we heard that the trucks were going to race at Daytona. It will be very exciting, very competitive, and I look forward to watching it. Should be fun," Earnhardt, Jr. said.
Talladega Superspeedway will welcome fans back for the UAW-Ford 500 event weekend set for Oct. 6-8, 2006, featuring 1,000 miles of racing in 3 days. The weekend begins with the Food World 250 ARCA RE/MAX Series race on Friday, Oct. 6, followed by the track's inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday, Oct. 7. Then on Sunday, Oct. 8, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams will compete in the UAW-Ford 500, race four in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Kids age 11 and younger are admitted free of charge on Friday and Saturday of race weekends in the general admission grandstands at Talladega Superspeedway. To order tickets,
call 1-877-Go2-DEGA (1-877-462-3342). For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). Tickets also are available online at www.racetickets.com, or in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. CDT, Monday - Friday.