Dale Jr's engine worries

Defending Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr is concerned that his team lacks the horsepower to fight for victory in this weekend's race

Dale Jr's engine worries

Earnhardt Jr was only 39th quickest in qualifying, with his Dale Earnhardt Inc. team-mates Martin Truex Jr and Michael Waltrip faring little better as they went 31st and 33rd fastest respectively.

DEI's lack of form is a major shock, as its Chevrolets have invariably been the cars to beat in NASCAR's so-called 'restrictor plate' races on superspeedways in recent years. The plates reduce horsepower at Daytona and Talladega, the fastest tracks on the Nextel Cup calendar, but the DEI team has been regarded as the masters of getting maximum speed out of this configuration - winning 11 'plate' races in the past four years, including three Daytona 500 triumphs.

At present it looks unlikely that the wildly popular Dale Jr. will be fighting for a repeat win in the 2005 race.

"We're way, way down on horsepower and that's just the simple fact of it," he said. "The car races really well in the draft. If everything works fine, we'll have a good (qualifying) race on Thursday and get up front sooner or later.

"But to run by ourselves, we need more steam underneath the hood. I've kind of seen it coming, and the test wasn't that good. We've been real slow since we've been here, so our expectations have been pretty low as far as qualifying."

Polesitter Dale Jarrett did not discount the threat posed by Earnhardt and his team-mates, but agreed that their usual edge appeared to be lacking this year.

"You can't take away the fact of what DEI has done here over the last few years," Jarrett said. "I'm sure when we get into drafting situations, Junior and Michael are both very good in those situations, but I'm not sure the dominance that they've showed is going to be there."

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