Texas Memories For Earnhardt Jr
April 3, 2009 | 8:42 A.M. EST
But for Dale Earnhardt Jr., the track has to rank high on his special list.
TMS was the site of Earnhardt's first career Sprint Cup win as a rookie back in 2000 and that day remains one of the second generation driver's most cherished memories.
"When you first come into this sport and you don't have a win, the anticipation of when that is going to happen is building and building," Earnhardt Jr. said. "You just wonder if it will and when it will. It's not something you expect to happen, so when it does, it is such a surprise. You've never been in that situation before where you have won a race.
"To see how surprised everybody and your team gets and how excited they get just adds to it. It's hard to explain to people how that feels - that first win and how it felt."
Since that win, Earnhardt has added 17 more Cup victories and also put together a solid career at Texas.
In 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at TMS, Earnhardt Jr. has scored one win, three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. He has an average starting position of 8.3 and an average finish of 13.4 at the 1.5-mile track. He has led at least one lap in 10 of those starts for a total of 394 laps. He has completed 95.6 percent of all the laps he's attempted there (4,161 of 4,352).
"Texas is tough - trying to get the car to turn down into Turn 1 and 2 and 3 and 4," Earnhardt said. "The cars get really tight there because the track changes so much throughout the weekend. The exit off of Turn 2 is a real, real tricky corner. It's a real strange exit for a mile-and-a-half racetrack. The track looks typical and looks normal from the single point of view but when you race around it and work around it it's got a lot of oddities that are different from most tracks and they are a challenge."
After last week's top-10 finish in Martinsville, crew chief Tony Eury Jr. believes the team has momentum and can add to its successful record at Texas this weekend.
"Texas has been a great place for us," Eury, Jr. said. "We actually won our first Nationwide race with Dale Jr. at Texas. We won our first Cup race at Texas. Texas just kind of fits Dale Jr.'s driving style and Texas is a lot of fun for us. We look forward to going there. It's a real fast place. Just got a lot of memories there. It's just so big and the cowboys are from there. All that stuff mixed in - it's got to be a great place."
Now 16th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings, Earnhardt Jr. is looking to continue the consistency the No. 88 team has showed in the last couple of weeks.
"I want to get us some top-five finishes and challenge for a win or two if not get a win," he said. "We don't have any top-fives yet, so I'd like to start stacking them up."