DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (finished first): ON THE PASS FOR THE LEAD WITH FIVE LAPS TO GO "I was sitting there running third behind the '97' and the '24' and the '2' was behind me. He kept pushing and pushing me...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (finished first):
ON THE PASS FOR THE LEAD WITH FIVE LAPS TO GO "I was sitting there running third behind the '97' and the '24' and the '2' was behind me. He kept pushing and pushing me down the back straightaway. I was trying to push the '97' into a race with the '24,' but he wouldn't do it and he just kept staying there and staying there. We just all got to beating and banging real hard. I was like, 'Sooner or later, I'm just going to have to take one of these runs and do it myself.' I didn't want to wait too long. I got run down the back straightaway. Rusty was pushing me. I went to the outside of the '97' and he kind of blocked me. We touched. Rusty went with the '97' and left me on the high side. I stuck there for a while for help to come. Ryan Newman came up through there and just pushed me on by. We worked kind of up towards the '24' and we got to him and Ryan pushed me right out in front. He helped me out. Of course, you've got two lanes and several guys running there at the end and we were fortunate enough to be out front of one of those lanes. We just kind of held them off there until the end."
ON THE RACE TONIGHT...FORMAT, UNDER THE LIGHTS, ETC. "The cars handled real good. Our car surprised the hell out of me. Normally, with the Chevrolets, we got real tight. But, tonight I was getting really, really loose getting into the corners, especially when I got a push going down the back straightaway. You would just go into the corner sideways, sawing the wheel to the middle of the corner. I was looking forward to the two-tire stop there with 19 to go because I knew it would tighten the car up. We were going to be set. A bunch of guys weren't as loose as we were, but we were kind of getting looser the longer we ran. I was really glad about that. It was cold and it should get looser instead of tighter, so our car worked out great. It was just great. We've had some trouble with it in practice being a little too tight and the changes we made worked out for us. The car was good.
"There was a lot of racing going on - a lot of beating and banging. Real quick, right off the green we got three-wide for a few rows, which just didn't seem right. We had a mandatory caution coming up and everybody was just kind of racing when it wasn't necessary to do so. It was hard for me with as good a car as I've got to cut up through there when they're three-wide. It's kind of like a wall. You can't go through it. I wish they'd have thinned out a little bit. We'd have gotten up through there, but we finally got up to the front where we wanted to be and just kind of stuck around there."
TONY EURY, SR., CREW CHIEF, NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
ON THE SUCCESS OF THIS PROGRAM "Our success comes from hard work. That is exactly where it comes from. We've worked a lot of long days and long nights to get the two cars that we have here - we have a third one down the road here in case something happened. But, we've worked real hard to get this new body style and get it where we want it and try to get back to where we were when we left Talladega in October. The fab guys, all the '8' car guys, the engine shop and everybody has worked night and day to try to keep our program rolling and not let this new body style and all these new templates affect what we were doing last year at these speedway races. It looks like everybody that was good in the speedway races last year is still good this year. I think the good teams are going to be good here."
IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR AERO SUPERIORITY HAS REMAINED, EVEN WITH THE NEW TEMPLATES... "I was nervous - somewhat skeptical over the off-season about what the new body was going to give us when we came here for Speedweeks for testing and whatnot. We have a talented group of individuals with the bodies over at the fab shop at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. We run a great program over there. It's almost like a little company in itself. Tony, Jr., and Tony, Sr., have studied the bodies over years and years of Busch racing and whatnot with my father. They have a track record that speaks for itself.
"I knew that maybe there would be a break-in period, by halfway through the season we'd have it figured out. But, man, I didn't expect to come down here and be as good as we were. I really didn't. Testing didn't really say much. You never know what you're getting out of the test sessions. But, when we went to drafting practice yesterday before the race, today I told them we picked right up where we left off, basically - 'we're as good, if not better.'"
DID YOU FEEL NEWMAN DRILL YOU AT THE END? "Yeah, I sure did. That was pretty much all everybody was doing there at the end. 19 to go, you come out of the pits with two tires. Your spotter tells you you've got 19 to go - it's over. It's time to throw everything out and just get to the front no matter what it takes. I swear, we knocked the whole nose off our car. It's ruined, from beating on some of those guys. You get an opportunity to give somebody a shove you've just got to do it because it's an opportunity to break away from the draft, from running side-by-side - whatever. Newman - hell, he hit me not even half as hard as I was running into the back of people tonight. I'm sitting there waving him on - 'C'mon...hit me, push me further...I need to be hit harder so I can clear the leader once we get down in the corner.' He almost didn't hit me hard enough. I wished he'd have hit me a little harder than he did because I just about didn't get by the '24,' but we had just enough momentum to clear him down in the middle of three and four there."
ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO DO THAT NEXT WEEK, TOO? "I guess guys have been running into guys ever since the first race ever.
"Bump drafting has always gone on. There are a lot of things that happen in them race cars that nobody will ever understand. No matter how closely you follow the sport, there are things that happen inside those cars and things that we do that we can't explain and you'll never know about. That is probably one of them - how to bump draft, when to do it, when it's proper, when it ain't proper, when it's tasteful and when it's distasteful. You've just got to know when and when not to. Fortunately, some of those guys do and unfortunately, some of those guys don't. But, it happens --- especially at the end of the race. This was a sprint. This was a sprint. Everybody is just racing like hell. You saw it. When the green flag dropped, they were just racing like hell. I was kind of unnerved there for a second. I was like, 'What am I going to do? How am I going to get through this? They're not going to stop,' so we just had to get in there with them. But, we were fortunate several times."
DID YOU GET INTO ANY OF THE SIDE-BY-SIDE BANGING? "Yeah, there were several times, running three-wide, we were in some nervous situations. One time, I came up off of two and got underneath the '48' and he kind of came down. We made contact and I went under the yellow line, more or less to save my car than to spin it out. But, I was kind of fortunate there. NASCAR maybe looked at it or didn't look at it or nobody knew about it. But, we were fortunate. I was in a dead slide coming down onto the apron and, I think, so was Jimmie. He slid on down under the line, too, and we just kind of cleared up and got going. One time, I got on the outside of the '21' and on the inside of two other guys. I was right in the middle of three-wide racing.
"I don't think the '21' knew we were three-wide. For two laps we ran side-by-side and he just kept running into the side of me and I kept running into the side of the other guy, so we were just kind of bouncing back and forth. We came off of two one time and I swear we wrecked. But luckily nobody hit anything hard enough to throw a caution, so we just kept on."
DID YOU EVER GET SO MAD AT SOMEBODY DURING A PLATE RACE THAT YOU SAY YOU'RE NOT GOING TO WORK WITH THEM ANYMORE? "Yeah, I think so. There are guys out there that my dad had relationships with or raced with and I thought coming into this sport that they would treat me like, 'Hey man, me and the old man, we were buddies and me and you are going to tighten up here and we're going to draft together,' and it's the total opposite. They'll just race the hell out of you because they've known you ever since you were 'yay-high.' Some of those guys, you can just count on them not helping you. Unfortunately, I had one of them guys behind me when I tried to go to the outside of the '97' car, but it ain't the first time he's just pushed me on up beside somebody and then left me by myself. Luckily, I was able to get back up through there. But, it happens. It's tough as hell. I think everybody doesn't really understand what is going on out there when you're racing. Say I've got Matt Kenseth - me and Matt's been friends for a long time or the '48' or the '24.' We're working together and we get all the way up to the front and I'm clear of the leader to move down in front of the leader and take the lead. I want to stay up there and help him, to a point, get clear of the leader, too, because he helped me get there in the first place. But, there is a point where you write it off and you say, 'Alright, I've helped you all I can help you. I can't help you no more. I'm trying to help myself again.' But, you try to do what you can to help people and you try not to piss people off, but I'm sure it doesn't always work out the way you want it to."
DO MOTORS NOT COUNT MUCH HERE ANYMORE? "The motors are as much as the bodies are. Who knows how good the body men are over at Yates, you know, because they've had so much horsepower for so many years. You don't ever hear about their fabricators. They might have good fabricators, but Yates has just been known for power, power, power.
"I'm going to tell you what --- when my car don't run, it don't run and we change the motor and we make it run, so I know - when we change intakes during practice and things like that - I learn that the motor is as important, if not more so. You've got to have that power range and that torque range and everything positioned just perfectly with the gear to where the car runs when it needs to run when you get them pushes. It's got to do certain things during the push and during the run that it has. It can't lose it. There's ways to kind of tweak things and make things happen to where when you get a push from somebody in the draft, that it will hold it. A good car will hold it for a whole lap or a lap and a half or two laps. That's how you get pushed by the leader and you clear him. Not many people can clear the leader. That's because we've geared and cammed our motors the way they need to be. I made that pass, probably more on motor than I did on body."
DO YOU SHOW UP HERE THINKING THAT NOBODY CAN HANDLE YOU? "I don't think that is really my style. I don't like being the favorite. I like being the surprise. I think it is a whole lot more fun when you really come out and surprise people, because that is what I've been used to all my life. Standing here next to the car before we were getting ready to start, I'm all fired up because I've got cabin fever because we ain't been racing - I'm ready to go, just real excited. Somebody came up and said, 'Man, you're the favorite and I'm picking you to win.' I've heard it over and over for the last couple days and it just ain't a good feeling. It really feels like, 'Well, is that going to jinx me? If I don't win, have I messed up or did I make a mistake?' So, automatically I go into the race knowing that Tony, Sr., and Tony, Jr., have built a car that can win, that should win. That is a hell of a lot of pressure because - I don't know - I ain't the greatest. I got a long ways to go before I am the greatest and I hate to be the guy that don't hold up to his end of the deal, so it's tough being the favorite. The car is the favorite, maybe not the driver - how about that?"
WITH THE CAR AS GOOD AS IT IS, DO YOU ENJOY WHAT YOU DO ON PLATE TRACKS? "Yeah, of course, when you've got a car that can run that good it's a whole lot more fun for me than it is for some of those guys, I'm sure. When you've got a car that won't work or won't do what you want it to do and you're struggling just to hang on, you can't help nobody, you can't push nobody - that's the worst part. I think the worst thing at a plate track is when you can't even give somebody some help. You feel just useless out there riding around. You can't push somebody by somebody. That's no fun. I'm fortunate that the people I race with are great at building these type of cars and really know what they're doing because it's a lot of fun for me. I just try to make right decisions - do the right thing, try not to crash too much - and win some."
DO YOU TRY HARDER HERE BECAUSE OF HOW GOOD YOUR FATHER WAS HERE? "Yeah, I think so. It don't make me try harder. It makes me feel like I come from a better breed than most of the guys I'm racing against. I watched him real close. I learned a lot about how to drive race cars by watching him and I was probably watching more than he knew or anybody knew. I had a lot of practice just trying to think about, 'Man, how did he lose that race or how did he win that race and why did the car do that?' Now that I'm driving I'm running into all these situations and understanding certain things that I've seen over the years. He was really, really good at running at this track. I always just thought it was a mind thing. But, of course you've got to have a good car. But, I go into these races just confident as heck that I can out-draft anybody. That's just how you feel when you get in the car and buckle down."
DO YOU SEE GUYS IN YOUR REARVIEW MIRROR MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT TO GO WITH YOU? "Yeah, I saw one make a decision not to go with me. I think Rusty - he didn't want to go with me. I can understand that. Me and him are more so competitors in the corporate world than on the racetrack. That does not surprise me one bit. It's almost, 'Damn it...damn Rusty's behind me again. This sucks.' You know that whatever you do you're going to have to do it by yourself.
"Most of the guys kind of help. Most of the guys want to get with the car, help the car. I want to draft with people that are fast. I'm not going to get behind somebody that hasn't been running good all weekend to help them. You're going to go with the faster guy. That's just an instinct right off the bat. But, once you get to the front, then it gets a little tougher. That's when the personalities come out in each driver, whether they like you or don't like you."
WITH YOU BEING SO DOMINANT, WHY WOULD PEOPLE WANT TO HELP YOU OUT? "Like I said, when I'm trying to get to the front, I don't care whether it's Rusty, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon - I don't care who it is - if they're fast, I'm going to get in behind them. I know that is the best way to go. They're going to the front; I'm going to the front and I'll deal with them later once we get there. That's your attitude. When you get towards the top three, that's when it gets a little more personal. That is when the drivers start to take it out on each other as far as what they personally think about you aside from you being a race car driver - what they think of you as a person. That's why you try to keep a good track record as a person."
HOW WILL THIS WIN BOLSTER YOUR CONFIDENCE? "We have a good shot at winning the championship this year. We are a great race team. Aside from just being really good at what we do, we all get along and you can't say that about a lot of the great teams in the sport and a lot of the great teams in the history of the sport. We all get along real good. We've all go great personalities and definitely are kind of diverse across the board and are really interesting people.
"I feel like good fortune and championships and solid success is just right in our face and coming our way. I'm looking forward to this year with a lot of anticipation and feel like we're going to run great at tracks we haven't in the past. We've really buckled down. There is a lot more understanding amongst the guys than there has been in the past. We're a lot more forgiving of each other than we were in the past. We've learned a lot over the past several years that is really going to make us a great team. I think we're there and I think we can do it this year. This win here tonight really doesn't improve on that. I already feel real strongly about it. This is just a good boost for Speedweeks. Hopefully, we can take some confidence out of this and go into the '500' and accomplish the same feat and that is to get to victory lane."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE RACING WILL BE DIFFERENT IN THE '500?' "I don't think you'll see the hard racing that you saw tonight. This is just kind of a little sprintfest and everybody was out for themselves and there was a lot of cut-throat out there. But, in the '500,' you're going to see guys with a little more relaxed attitude and a little more painstaking effort to get towards the end. It shouldn't be hard racing. You've got guys that just race hard - period - and they'll take care of themselves before it is all over with."