St. Petersburg Times
Online: Tech Times
 tampabay.com
Print storySubscribe to the Times

Motorsports

Junior hopes to crack struggles at the Rock

By Wire services
Published February 20, 2004

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. is close to unbeatable inrestrictor-plate races.

He'll get a chance to show whether he's truly a contender to win the Nextel Cup title as NASCAR shifts to North Carolina Speedway, a difficult track on which Junior has struggled often.

In eight career top-series starts at the 1.017-mile oval, Earnhardt's best finish was 13th, in November.

His Dale Earnhardt Inc. team has spent a considerable amount of time testing in preparation for the Subway 400, hoping the extra work will propel him to another victory.

"In the past, it was a track we struggled at," he said. "It may be the only place we haven't really conquered yet."

Junior has proven to be a master at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway - two tracks that require horsepower-sapping restrictor plates - partly because of the time and energy DEI devotes to those facilities.

He won all three races he entered at Daytona last week and has nine career victories there. But if he wants to be taken seriously as a title contender, he needs to improve at the tracks for which he has never masked his disdain.

That includes Rockingham, where the rough surface eats away at tires and puts driver ability and handling at a premium.

"Even though we devote a lot of effort and time to restrictor-plate tracks, Rockingham is a track we've emphasized as a place where we need to improve if we're going to win a championship," he said. "I used to come here with a bad attitude, and it seemed to set the tone for the whole team.

"I think it's different now. If anything, winning the Daytona 500 gave us more confidence than we already had as a team."

The complexion of Sunday's race should be different from past years because of new, NASCAR-implemented aerodynamic rules that revolve around smaller rear spoilers and less downforce.

Goodyear also has produced a softer tire, and combined with the new rules, the cars should be more difficult to drive beginning with today's qualifying session.

The new tweaks are expected to favor veteran drivers, who have experience with different setups.

NHRA: Tony Schumacher covered the quarter-mile strip in 4.514 seconds at 326.32 mph to lead the Top Fuel category in the K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway. Eric Medlen led Funny Car (4.840 at 319.07 mph) and Greg Anderson led Pro Stock (6.743 at 205.19 mph).

[Last modified February 20, 2004, 01:31:57]


Baseball

  • Steroid link irks Sheffield

  • Black History Month
  • Tony Dungy

  • College basketball
  • Bonnies hit with probation, '04 postseason ban
  • FSU star senior honored
  • Jackets snap Maryland hex
  • Stanford labors past Trojans to remain perfect
  • Women: Duke still the class of ACC
  • Women: Vols fend off UF

  • College football
  • Another assault allegation at CU

  • Golf
  • Pros hope to avoid the cons of pro-am
  • 2 share lead; Woods' cut streak in danger
  • A happy return for Fleisher

  • In brief
  • Ruling may cost U.S. gold medal

  • MLS
  • 14-year-old phenom Adu packs stadium

  • Motorsports
  • Junior hopes to crack struggles at the Rock

  • NBA
  • Wallace winds up in Detroit
  • Wolves overthrow rival Kings

  • NFL
  • Bear, Colt coaches speak up about the Bucs' denials
  • Clarett is not in the running yet

  • NHL
  • Atlanta spoils debut by Bondra in Ottawa

  • Obituary
  • 'Chris Thomas touched us all'

  • Outdoors
  • Capable sailors
  • Daily fishing report

  • Preps
  • Family takes relationship all the way to the mat
  • Gators unable to hang on to lead
  • Group effort gives SPC needed lift vs. Arcadia
  • Lessons learned give lift to Tornadoes
  • Nature Coast Tech rebounds for first playoff victory
  • Panthers battle illness and Ravens to advance
  • Ridgewood survives another close call
  • Tarpon Springs savors a season to remember
  • Third time proves the charm for Durant
  • Yellow Jackets overcome sluggish start

  • Sports on the Air
  • Creek rises, memories never fade for the best
  • Remote Patrol
  • Rays
  • Now batting ...
  • Piniella eager for bonding to begin
  • Lightning
  • Reasons to feel blue
  • Andreychuk involved in power struggle
  •  


    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111