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JUNIOR EAGER TO END LONG WINLESS STREAK

Another week, more expectations for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

NASCAR's most popular driver started strong in his new ride at Hendrick Motorsports, winning the nonpoints Budweiser Shootout and his 150-mile qualifying race at Daytona.

Ninth place in last week's Daytona 500 wasn't bad, either. And he did lead some laps.

But it's not what Earnhardt's fans expect from their hero, whose decision to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. and sign with Hendrick was one of the biggest stories of 2007.

Heading into today's Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway - formerly California Speedway - Earnhardt is winless in 63 races since May 2006.

For Earnhardt to win, he must improve on his performances at the track 60 miles east of Los Angeles. In 12 races at the speedway, he has five top-10 finishes, topped by a fifth-place run last year.

Heading into the race, Earnhardt is mostly satisfied with what he and his No. 88 Chevrolet team have accomplished.

"Yeah, we had a good start, so I'm real proud of that," Earnhardt said. "We're looking forward to the rest of the year, just trying to keep that momentum going and continue to have a good, solid season."

With rain washing out qualifying Friday, Earnhardt lines up 15th today, based on the car-owner points his team inherited from last year at Hendrick.

Rain pushes back Nationwide race

Steady rain Saturday night forced the postponement of the Nationwide series race until today. It will be held after the Sprint Cup race.

Officials waited more than two hours, making several attempts to dry the 2-mile oval, before finally giving up in the face of a worsening forecast.

The National Weather Service called for heavy rain and high wind during the night, with the rain expected to taper off during the day.

The Auto Club 500 is set to begin at 4 p.m., and the Nationwide race would be run after its completion (TV: 9 p.m., ESPN2).

Rain has hampered activities at the track since Friday.

Trucks: Kyle Busch dominated the 100-lap race at Auto Club Speedway, leading 51 laps and winning by 1.415 seconds over Todd Bodine. Busch was out front going into a round of green-flag pit stops late and retook the lead on Lap 91.

NHRA: Tim Wilkerson earned his second straight No. 1 qualifying position of the Funny Car season, topping qualifying for the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Ariz. Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro) qualified No. 1 as well.

East Bay: Keith Nosbisch of Valrico battled through traffic to take the lead and win the 40-lap main event late Friday night at East Bay Raceway in Tampa.

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