WELCOME, N.C. -- His colors may be different but it will be the same hard-charging Dale Earnhardt shooting for a record-tying third Winston Cup NASCAR points championship beginning next month at the Daytona 500.
"The biggest thing I had to adjust to was the new paint job," Earnhardt told reporters touring the Richard Childress race shop in Welcome, N.C., last Monday. "I'm looking forward to Daytona. I've been close the last couple of years. I feel it owes us.
"We're going back to ground zero," he said about the upcoming Winston Cup season. "The points championship means nothing when the Daytona starts."
The tour of the Childress garage was the first stop in the Charlotte Motor Speedway media tour, a five-day whirlwind tour of area racing teams and seminars on NASCAR.
On Tuesday, the tour will visit with Cale Yarborough, Jimmy Means and David and Larry Pearson. The program also features seminars on such topics as the future of racing and women drivers.
Earnhardt, who captured his second straight and third overall points title in 1987, was swamped by dozens of reporters and camera crews as he showed off his Chevy's new black and silver paint job in Childress' immaculate garage.
The color change came about when GM Goodwrench took over as the major sponsor. Earnhardt's familiar No. 3 remains intact.
So has Earnhardt's personality, which came through when he was asked about NASCAR's decision to reduce carburetor size, which is expected to cut horsepower in Winston Cup cars by about 200 horsepower.
"For safety reasons I suppose it was needed. But I like to drive fast," he said. "I'm a flat-out driver so I don't like it.
"It might give some drivers a false sense of safety," Earnhardt said. "The car feels more stable at 190 mph than at 200 mph. But a car can still shift sideways at 150 mph and get off the ground."
NASCAR's decision to slow the cars was precipitated in part by last season's spectacular accident at Talladega, Ala., when Bobby Allison's car became airborne and crashed into a fence protecting hundreds of spectators.
"We can't have a big lawsuit and hundreds of fans hurt," Earnhardt said.
Then he gave the other side.
"Speed's the name of the game," he said. "I like to come down the stretch doing 210 mph or 220 mph. It's going to feel a little funny going 190 mph."
Earnhardt, who started off the 1987 season with six wins in the first eight races, said it wouldn't surprise him if he dominated again in 1988. But he saved most of his praise for Childress' race team.
"I think this team is capable of doing that," he said. "They're back on the dig, working hard. I'm proud to be part of it."
Like his driver, Childress was confident about the upcoming season.
"Do you think you can win another 10 or 11 races?" one reporter asked.
"I hope we can win more than that," Childress answered. "We're in as good a shape as any team. When the green flag falls, you'll see No. 3 out there with them."
Earnhardt said he expected strong challenges from Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte.
"The teams that have been together a long time have momentum," he said. "We'll be going in there hitting as hard as we did at the end of last season."
Earnhardt admitted he's been frustrated with his failure to win at Daytona.
"Any racer wants to win the 500," he said. "I've won three championships but I still want to win there before I quit. I feel like we can go there this time and win."