Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Budweiser team were among the dominant cars at the Harrah's 500, starting from the pole position and leading five times for 107 laps.

The weekend had looked promising for the No. 8 team when Jr. grabbed the Bud Pole position for the third time in less than 12 months with a lap at an average speed of 190.678 mph.

The lap secured the team's place in the 2002 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. The best part of the day for many was seeing Dale Jr. and the Bud team smile easily for the first time in six weeks. (Dale Jr. also seemed pleased about being presented with a Toro riding mower as a part of his pole-winning bounty...)

The team's previous poles were at Charlotte (May) and Michigan (Sept.) last season.

On race day, Jr. was leading easily and even pulling away from the rest of the field when the final yellow flag of the day fell on lap 312 (of 334). The team decided to put on four new tyres, while many other teams on the lead lap took only two.

The relatively lengthy stop dropped Dale Jr. to ninth, which was only the second time in the race that he was lower than third position. Unfortunately, the final set of tyres performed poorly for the last 20 laps of the race, and Dale Jr. was unable to move back to the front of the field.

Dale Jr.'s teammate Steve Park finished second, giving Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) two of the top eight finishers, while his eighth place was the best result for the team since they finished second in the season-opening Daytona 500.

"I like this place. I guess I like Texas and Texas likes me... We're happy with the overall run today," said Earnhardt Jr. "I mean, that deal at the end, what are you gonna do? We were leading so easily with about 30 to go. I was just relaxing, being patient and driving in my own rhythm. The car was the best it had been all day at that point. It had cooled off and the cloud cover came in and I think that really helped our car. The guys told me we had enough fuel to go to the finish, so we were just cruising. They would have had a real hard time catching us."

"The yellow came out (on lap 312) and we decided to take four tires. We could have stayed out without changing tires, or we could have taken two, but we felt that four fresh tyres would win the race, and it did with the 88 (Jarrett) car. We just got our worst set at the end. We took four because we came here to win, we didn't come here to just try and hang on for a top five. The crew was great today - we had a bunch of 14-second pit stops and they got me out in front a couple of times."

"I don't know that we were as dominant as last year (when Dale Jr. and the Bud team won their first Winston Cup race, leading 108 laps in the 2000 race), but the car was pretty good -- not perfect - but pretty good all day. It was so hard to pass cars because of the aero push - once you got in behind someone you just couldn't get enough air on the nose of the car to get it to turn. Actually, the most fun I had today was running up front with (DEI teammate) Steve Park. We were able to work together and pull away pretty easily. The two teams worked together on that. My car wouldn't turn when I was right up behind his car, so he would run a little higher line in the corners. That meant I could keep the left side of the nose of my car in clean air and I could turn a lot better."

Meanwhile, Dale Jr. will spend today (Monday) with representatives from Remington Arms and the U.S. Secret Service, as he takes target practice with Remington's custom sniper rifles.

Remington, an associate sponsor of the No. 8 team, produces many of the weapons used by law enforcement officers all across the country, and the sniper range allows officers and secret service agents to hone their skills.

"This is so cool," enthused Dale Jr. "I did this last year, and I was able to destroy a bowling pin from more than 1,000 yards away. You just can't imagine how impressive these sniper rifles are..."
Dale Jr. and team clearly enjoyed running up front again after several weeks of bad luck and poor finishes. Their radio banter throughout the race was spiked with fun exchanges...

Dale Jr. (while passing Jeff Gordon and reading the decals on Jeff's car at more than 190 mph): "Hey guys, did y'all know that Jeff has a new associate sponsor?!"

Ty Norris (DEI general manager and Bud team spotter): "Good job man. Now he can look at the sponsors on your rear bumper for awhile."

Dale Jr. (complaining about the hot temperatures in the car during a caution period): "Hey guys, the fan doesn't work. I need some air in here."

Brian Cram (Bud crew member): "It was working this morning."

Dale Jr: "That aint good enough man. (teasing) I wasn't in here this morning, I'm in here NOW and I need it to work..."

Dale Jr. (while leading by more than three seconds) "Yeah man! This is real easy. This is nice. This is fun, ain't it boys?!"

During a late race yellow flag:

Tony Eury Sr. (Bud team crew chief): "Save all the gas you can here. Don't use that accelerator pedal unless you have to."

Dale Jr: (disgusted) "Awwww. Are you kidding me? Jeez."

Tony Sr.: "We're still figuring, but we think you can make it. The 1 (Park) and the 88 (Jarrett) will need to stop again (for fuel)."

Dale Jr: "Well, I need to know here. If I go out there and bust my a-- just trying to save fuel, I'm tellin' ya it aint gonna be driver error!"

Tony Sr: "We just figured it. You'll have .87 of a gallon left as you get the chequered flag."

Tony Eury Jr. (Bud team car chief): "Remember, this is Texas, you'll run out after you win this thing. Go for it. You got enough."