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NASCAR Busch Series News

Junior rolling into Kroger 200
August 5, 1999 - By Marty Smith, NASCAR Online

CLERMONT, Ind. - With his victory last weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is once again peering down on his nemeses from the top of the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division mountain.

However, this week offers no time to rest on his laurels. Friday, he has to climb yet another treacherous hill if he wants to retain the top slot in the series points race -- the $568,403 Kroger 200 Presented By Fifth Third Bank at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a .626-mile bullring in the cornfields of southern Indiana.

The one-day show will open with practice at 1 p.m. ET. Bud Pole Qualifying, set for 4:30 p.m., will set the full 43-car field, while the event will get the green flag at 8:30 p.m. The race will be televised live on ESPN and broadcast on MRN Radio beginning at 8:15 p.m.

"I can't say that it's going to be an easy day," said Earnhardt, driver of the No. 3 ACDelco Chevrolet. "I liked racing at IRP last year and the Busch race is where my focus will be this weekend. We are in this to win a championship. I am just going to take each situation as it comes."

That's certainly a safe and intelligent strategy. Junior's miniscule 11-point advantage over friend and rival Matt Kenseth could vanish in seconds. Just ask Kenseth, who saw Earnhardt swipe the points lead from him last week in St. Louis. In that race, Kenseth battled back to post a sixth-place finish after getting caught-up in an early-race skirmish with Jeff Fuller and Todd Bodine.

"If we don't run better than this we don't deserve to be in the lead," said Kenseth, who pilots the No. 17 DeWalt Tools Chevrolet. "We know we have to win races and lead laps to win this championship. "We have to start doing that each week or we are going to get pretty far behind. You can't run sixth or seventh each week to win championships. It's not that easy anymore. You have to win races and run in the top-five to be in contention."

One driver that is adamant that he'll be in contention this weekend is two-time series champion Randy LaJoie. LaJoie, driver of the No. 1 Bob Evans Restaurants Chevrolet, finished as runner-up to Earnhardt, last weekend after starting a dismal 27th. Following the race, he was confident that he'd "school 'em" this weekend.

"We're heading back to one of my favorite tracks on the NASCAR Busch Series circuit Friday," LaJoie said. "We tested there several weeks ago and it went really well. We're also taking the same car we finished second with last weekend. That car has been awesome since we debuted it at Milwaukee."

A major factor in LaJoie's march through the field last week at Gateway was the proficiency of his pit crew. Friday, that will once again play a major role in any driver's chance to visit Victory Lane.

"I am going to do my best to go there, sit on the pole and win the Kroger 200," LaJoie said. "I've won there before and with the way the last few races have gone, I don't see why we couldn't put the Bob Evans Restaurants Chevrolet in Victory Lane. Good pit stops and track position will be the key to victory."

For now, however, it looks like Earnhardt, may just be the man to beat this weekend. Not only did he win last weekend, he also topped the $2 million plateau in just his 60th series race, making him the quickest NASCAR Busch Series driver to ever do so. Now, the No. 3 team has the points lead back in its grasp, and doesn't have plans of surrendering it anytime soon.

"We got the points lead back again last weekend," said Tony Eury Sr., the team's crew chief. "And now with only 11 races left, it's ours to lose."

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Blk3GM's Dale Earnhardt Site was born on July 26, 1998 and is owned and maintained by Gary Harris.  This site is a tribute to "NASCAR's Greatest Driver" and his up and coming son.  We are not affiliated with any official Team, Sponsors, Media Group or NASCAR.  This site is solely for entertainment purposes.  Information and statistic's on this site have been collected from various NASCAR related sites on the internet, from Winston Cup Scene, Newspapers, Television and our personal experience at Winston Cup and Busch Grand National races.  All statistics are believed to be accurate at the time they are updated but cannot be guaranteed.
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