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Junior gets IVs to stay hydrated

INDIANAPOLIS -- When you're NASCAR's most popular driver a little thing like a stomach virus will draw headlines.

But Dale Earnhardt Jr. won't let two days of fever, IVs and nausea keep him out of Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"We didn't have to dial 911," Earnhardt said after qualifying third on Saturday. "I had a stomach virus pop up late Thursday night and was throwing up and all that good stuff all the way up until 5 o'clock in the morning [Friday]. I came here and got a couple of IVs early in the afternoon.

"I broke my fever about 8 o'clock yesterday morning. The fever came back last night but I broke it again. I've just been sweating a lot and probably will get some more fluids this afternoon after practice."

Earnhardt still will have Brad Keselowski, who drives for him in the Nationwide Series, on hand as a backup driver. Keselowski, who was scheduled to take a couple of practice laps in Earnhardt's Cup car, is competing at nearby O'Reilly Raceway Park in Saturday night's Nationwide race.

"I doubt we'll need it," Earnhardt said. "I did that basically to be safe. The only thing I have to worry about is being hydrated from here on out."

Earnhardt is 21st in points, trying to turn around one of the most disappointing seasons of his career. He'd like that to start at the 100-year-old Brickyard.

"If we can win this weekend that would be a pretty good start," he said. "... We need to run up front, run in the top five. We were a team that could do that a little over 12 months ago. I'd like to get back to that and start looking at opportunities to win races."

For a while on Saturday it looked like Earnhardt wouldn't make it to qualifying despite getting extra sleep in his motorcoach thanks to more than a three-hour delay for rain.

He arrived at his car on pit road only a few minutes before he was supposed to take the track for two laps.

"That's my PR guy's fault," he said of Mike Davis. "... I just sit in that bus and wait on people to tell me what to do"

What Earnhardt wants to do is forget about the past two days and the first part of the season.

"I feel tons better," he said. "That stomach virus was the worst thing I experienced in my life. I used to think sore throats were the worst aggravatingest thing. I'm not a very big fan of stomach viruses now."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.