Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Looks Forward To Talladega
When Dale Earnhardt, Jr. looks at his NASCAR career so far - particularly his five NEXTEL Cup victories at Talladega Superspeedway - he sees a successful resume, regardless of what takes place in the future.
So even though Earnhardt, Jr. is still seeking his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship, he insists that he feels no extra pressure to perform. He will arrive at Talladega Superspeedway for the Aaron's Dream Weekend on April 27-29 excited about his continued opportunity simply to compete at the sport's highest level, and to race on one of his favorite tracks.
"Probably in a lot of people's eyes, (winning the championship) would help validate my career, but I won't carry any burden with me if I don't," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "As a driver, I come in here and I compete. Winning the championship is the ultimate goal, and I go as hard as I can for it.
"But I've already accomplished more than I ever thought I would. I've shook hands and met people and done things I never thought I'd do. I have quite a lot of fond memories of my career up to this point already."
Near the top of that list of memories is Earnhardt, Jr.'s record at Talladega Superspeedway, especially from October 2001 through October 2004. Earnhardt, Jr. competed in nine races at Talladega Superspedway during that span (seven NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events and two Busch Series races) and finished either first or second every time.
Earnhardt, Jr. began that stretch by winning four consecutive NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races, as well as the April 2003 Busch Series event. That was followed by three consecutive runner-up finishes (two in NEXTEL Cup and one in Busch), before he returned to Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway in the October 2004 NEXTEL Cup race.
Earnhardt, Jr.'s five career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories at Talladega Superspeedway places him second on the track's all-time victory list, behind only his father, Dale Earnhardt, who won 10 Cup races at Talladega.
The elder Earnhardt also won seven Cup championships, a goal that has eluded Earnhardt, Jr. during his eight-year career. But now that he is reunited with former crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. (the two parted ways for most of the 2005 season), Earnhardt, Jr. said he is confident that he will be a title contender, both this season and in years to come.
"I was real worried going into both the '05 and '06 seasons," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "When I got with the new team (in '05), I was wondering how we were going to run. I knew nothing about the cars. I knew nothing much about the team as far as their experience and talent. The crew chief was a big question mark; I was a big question mark, everything about it.
"Then going into last year, I was worried whether me and Tony Jr. could be successful again as we were in '04. I was worried whether we could match the pressure of trying to make the Chase. We didn't have any excuses. All of those things were going through my mind last year.
"Now this year, I'm very comfortable. I proved to myself what I wanted to know last year, and I feel like we're very capable of winning the championship. I know more about what to do to win the championship and how to better position myself to make the Chase and those type of things."
And if it doesn't happen this season, the 32-year-old Earnhardt, Jr. said he still has plenty of time and desire to win a championship.
"I have a lot of years left to focus on winning the championship, and hopefully that will happen," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "I would like to drive as long as I can. I really enjoy it. When I'm out of the car in the off season, I miss it. The day after Christmas, I'm ready to get back on the track. I love racing. I love racing against people in this sport, the drivers that we have.
"The older I get, the better I feel about my ability to compete longer and
not run into the burnout of just wanting to get out of it. I want to race a long, long, long time."
The 2007 racing season at Talladega Superspeedway kicks off with Aaron's Dream Weekend set for April 27-29, featuring the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series practice and The Birmingham News Qualifying for the NASCAR Busch Series on Friday, April 27, The Birmingham News Qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday, April 28, and the Aaron's 499 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Sunday, April 29. 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 are also available online at www.racetickets.com, or in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. CDT, Monday - Friday. Kids age 11 and younger are admitted free of charge (Frontstretch Lower General Admission Grand Stands only) with a ticketed adult on Friday and Saturday of race weekend.