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NASCAR Earnhardt favored in Busch



Published: Sat, February 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Dale Earnhardt Jr. will try to win his fourth consecutive Busch race at Daytona.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has his work cut out for him if he is going to win a fourth consecutive NASCAR Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

While "Front Row Joe" Nemechek was winning the pole for today's Hershey's Take 5 300, Earnhardt qualified 26th in the 43-car field. He appeared unconcerned about starting back in the pack.

"It feels good," Earnhardt said of his No. 81 Chevrolet. "There is no such thing as a qualifying setup anymore. It's our racing setup in there and we're real fast.

"We'll just have to drive by a few of them to get to the front," added Junior, who also will be among the favorites to repeat as Daytona 500 champion on the same track Sunday.

Nemechek, a regular in the Nextel Cup Series who runs a handful of Busch races, got around the 2 1/2-mile, high-banked oval at 182.452 mph. It was the 18th pole of his Busch career and the fourth at Daytona. Nemcheck has eight Cup poles.

"Hopefully, I'm going to be the car to beat," Nemechek said when asked if Earnhardt should be the favorite to win again.

"We drafted with him, Martin Truex ... a lot of the guys are going to be tough. I think you're going to see the same ones up front: Michael Waltrip, Kevin Harvick, there will be a bunch of them up there."

'Exciting races'

Nemechek noted that the current Busch aerodynamic package, with metal blades sticking up from the roof like taxicab signs, is the same one that was run in then-Winston Cup several years ago.

"That lets you run in packs and some of the most exciting races we've had in Cup was with this package back in 2000. It's going to be the same in the Busch Series. We're three-wide and passing like it's incredible. You never know who is going to win."

Kyle Busch, last year's series runner-up to champion Truex and a rookie in Nextel Cup this season, took the outside spot on the front row at 182.216.

Kevin Harvick, another Cup regular and the subject of criticism after sparking a multicar crash during one of Thursday's 150-mile Daytona 500 qualifying races, was unfazed Friday. He qualified seventh for the Busch race.

"Everything's good," Harvick said. "We're preparing our backup car [for the 500]. Everything else is good."

Truex, who drives for Chance 2 Motorsports, co-owned by Earnhardt and his stepmother, Teresa, won a series-high six times on the way to the 2004 title. He started from the pole here last year, but will be just in front of his boss in 23rd today.




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