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16th NASCAR Busch Win!
Daytona Int'l Speedway - February 15th, 2003
Dale Jr. and the Oreo/Ritz team win the Koolerz 300!
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Daytona Beach, FL - From Victory Lane... "We're real happy. That was a great car the guys built for me. I couldn't have done it without the strength under the hood from Richie Gilmore. Everything has gone so well for us with the Busch team this weekend - practicing and qualifying - the guys really were dialed in. They just stayed loose and didn't get too much pressure on them. They were great under fire today during the pit stops. We needed to get out front. I knew leading the race was where I wanted to be and I needed to get there as fast as I could. We took two tires there the last two stops. That's what we did last year. I don't know why Richard (Childress) and them didn't do it again because that's where I learned it. We had a great run."

After taking the lead on the 54th lap from Kevin Harvick, Earnhardt Jr. never looked back and sailed to the win in the first-time team car owned by his step-mom, Theresa Earnhardt and himself. Last year's win was in a Richard Childress Racing Chevy. This year, the DEI entry carried the No. 8 on the Chevy.

Does it make it extra special, knowing the circumstances that brought this deal together for you? "It's hard to beat winning a Winston Cup race. But, I remember the feeling that I had when I built my first late model and took it to victory lane and that's a special feeling, too. It's two totally different things. I'm having a great experience with these guys and I hope they're enjoying themselves. We've got a long ways to go. This can just keep getting bigger and bigger. We're having a great time. If we keep going to victory lane, we'll be alright."

Daytona: Segments from Dale Earnhardt Jr's press conference

0n Today's Victory: "It was a good race. We had a great car. From last year's race I knew I needed to be up front to win. I couldn't pass Kevin when he was leading at the start of the race and I knew that was kind of the situation anybody would have behind me if I could get the lead. So, we just kept doing two tire stops until the end of the race and had about 90 laps on our left-sides.

"That's exactly what we did last year and it worked out fine. My car kept turning good. It never got tight or started sliding around - plus we had several cautions throughout the period of the race, too, to help out.

"It was a good job by the whole organization. As small and new as it is, they're doing a good job of performing. There are a lot of expectations, but they're doing a good job."
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How does Teresa feel about this win? "Me and Teresa share a 50-50 role as owners in the team. I'm real happy. It really didn't dawn on me that I was sitting in a car that I owned until I was driving the car out for the first practice. I remember when I built my first late model from the ground. I made everything on it. I won my first race with it and there is no feeling like that and this is kind of similar to it. This is my little baby in a way. I was real proud of the team and real proud of the guys. They had a lot of pressure on them because none of them have a lot of experience. They just wanted to be able to hold up their end of the bargain. They were so worried that they were going to make mistakes on pit road or the car wasn't going to be right when we got here or we just weren't going to be able to back up everybody's expectations. I felt pretty bad for them. But, we just kind of kept a level head and everything just went real smooth for us."

On trying the high line with about five laps to go: "It's really tough to pass the leader in the Busch Series, but if they do drop back far enough they can get such a run on you that they'll just go right by you. So, whenever somebody would get too far back or I felt like they were purposely falling back to make a run, I was trying to run high and force them to make that ground back up through the corner, so that they weren't hauling butt once they got to me."

Did you report throttle problems during the race? "Actually, I didn't have full throttle for most of the race. But, yeah - believe me, I wasn't too happy about it. I was running behind Kevin and I couldn't even pull up on him. Michael (Waltrip) kept running up to me and running up to me and I'm thinking that my car just wasn't running like it was yesterday. Then, we had that pit stop and we took two and we got the lead. I was thinking, 'Alright, we'll be OK because there is always this little cushion - you can't really pull up to the bumper of the leader.' Michael kept pulling up and pulling up and I'm thinking, 'Man, what is wrong with my car. It just ain't running.' It was like 90 percent throttle, but that was enough to where I could tell a difference."

Why does being a car owner hold such special significance for you? "I never thought I'd want to be a car owner after my driving career was finished. And, I still don't know if that is what I want to do or the direction I'm going to go. But, I wanted to have a team of my own that I could understand from Teresa's point of view or the people that are working within the team - their point of view - so I could kind of turn around and almost look back at myself in a way, and see what I'm doing wrong - not in the car in the Winston Cup Series, but outside the car - what I can do better with the team, communication, with my PR people, understand more about what the load is that everybody else is carrying. When you're just a driver, period, it's always, 'Woe is me. I've got all this (stuff) to do and I don't want to do it.' Well, now hopefully, being on this side of the fence I'll get a little understanding of the (stuff) everybody else has to go through to be on the ride, too."


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