Dale Earnhardt Jr only narrowly missed out on claiming a guaranteed front row starting spot for this weekend's season-opening Daytona 500, and the Budweiser Chevrolet driver had a lot to say as practice for the Twin 125s and the big race itself began.
Dale Earnhardt Jr:
"The tyres are wearing out pretty fast. Everybody has the same tyres so everybody is dealing with the same problem."
on handling the pressure of being the favourite:
"I just hang out. There's not much to it. But I don't know if I'm the favourite. I think [DEI team-mate] Michael [Waltrip] is the favourite. He's won two out of the last three years."
on working with John Andretti:
"We were just out there drafting together. He's a good team-mate. Some guys have their own agenda but, when you put him in the car, he knows how good a race car driver he is. He doesn't have anything to prove. If you give him a good car, he's going to run good. He's out there to help us and we're going to help him."
on strategy for the Twin 125s:
"You don't know that until the last lap. You just try not to crash and try to be toward the front. There are a hundred different ways. You don't know what the plan is until it's all laid out in front of you. If the cautions come out, you're going to come down and get tires more often. So we'll be pitting more often. Other than that, I don't know what else we have to worry about."
on the chance of teamwork between Earnhardt and Waltrip:
"I don't know. I haven't really worked with Michael in the draft since we've been down here. If we end up toward the front, we'll definitely be helping each other. You've got to help your team-mate before you help anybody else. So, if he's up there and I'm up there, there is a good possibility we'll be drafting."
on concerns over the Roush/Yates ford engine partnership:
"I don't think either one knew more than the other. You definitely like putting all your eggs in one basket and that's going to be more organisation and a smoother organisation. Their programme will be more powerful company-wise, but I don't know if they can actually build motors better than anybody else. Everybody knows about the same stuff."
on whether the union was the result of DEI/Chevy domination:
"I don't think so. I think they did it because Roush motors don't really run good anywhere. Maybe he just wanted somebody to build his motors for him."
on the new Chase for the Championship:
"I like it, I guess. I don't have a choice whether I like it or don't like it. I didn't think it was something that was necessary to change, but it's pretty exciting how it sounds. It'll be neat to see how the season plays out.
"It's uncharted territory. I don't know what we can expect. It's a tough sport for a driver going week in and week out and having to continue to mould himself and adjust himself to the pace of it. And now we've got to really realign everything with this new system. How do we race? What's the plan? What's the mentality going in now? We don't know."
on giving president Bush political advice during the Daytona 500: