Newsmaker: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2004

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is carrying on a family tradition at the Daytona International Speedway. Like his father, he continues to dominate races at the 2.5-mile speedway in February, but he struggles in the one race that counts most the Daytona 500. The third-generation driver talked about his schedule at Daytona, including the defense of his Budweiser Shootout all-star victory on Saturday night.

Question: You've had a lot of success at the Daytona International Speedway, but the Daytona 500 has eluded you. With the Budweiser Shootout all-star race, qualifying, the 125-mile qualifying races, the Busch Series race and the 500 all on your schedule, does it stretch you too thin?

Earnhardt Jr.: ''I love Speedweeks. I'm ready to get going. I spent the off-season feeling like an unemployed bum, so it's great to get to the track and get used to the spectacle of the races again. "

Question: You won last year's Budweiser Shootout despite starting last. Do you like the shorter, dash-for-cash, format?

Earnhardt Jr.: ''The Budweiser Shootout is a true sprint race. It's like NASCAR's version of the 40-yard dash. We run wheel to wheel knowing that every inch we give will be taken. It's high adrenaline all the time, and that's the way I like it. Plus it's under the lights, and night racing is always fun. "

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