Excuses Over For Junior

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He has a Winston Cup pole position and a victory at Texas Motor Speedway but Dale Earnhardt, Jr. says it's time for him to step things up in 2003 and Sunday's Samsung/Radio Shack 500 may be his best opportunity yet this season to make it to victory lane.

“I always look forward to going to Texas," said Earnhardt. "It’s such a fast track and it takes some guts to get around there. Plus, we’ve always had a fast car. We’ve won, we got a Bud Pole, and we’ve led every Cup race we’ve started at Texas. You feel like you’re starting the weekend a little bit ahead because you’re confident that you’re going to be right there at the checkered flag. I got my first wins there (in both the Busch Series and Winston Cup series), so it’s like going back to your favorite vacation spot – you have fond memories and you can’t wait to get back again.

Earnhardt has shown flashes of success this season, including a strong run last weeken at Bristol, but hasn't been able to put things totally together.

"I think the whole team is more determined after Bristol," he said. "We had a top-five car, but after we dropped so far behind, I was just hoping for a top-20 finish with all four fenders intact. (The team finished 16th after dropping three laps down late in the race.) I was imagining the worst for our points position, and I was hoping we would still be in the top-10, but we’re still right there in the top-five and really close to the guy in second place. DEI has two cars in the top-five in points, and it’s something the company can be proud of."

Earnhardt will start the Budweiser Chevrolet in the eleventh position on Sunday. The decent qualifying run and the confidence he has running at Texas may be enough to catapult Junior to a win.

“We’ve run out of excuses for beating ourselves on race day," he said. "We've run up front every weekend, and we've had something happen to keep us from a win. If we want to stay in the championship, we can’t do it anymore. But, we’re starting to go to some tracks where we’ve won races before, and that encourages the whole team.”

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