Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo: ON FINISHING THIRD TODAY "We did have a good car all day. We led some laps and that was real fun, just being up front and putting cars laps down and trying to put the race away. But,...
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
ON FINISHING THIRD TODAY
"We did have a good car all day. We led some laps and that was real fun, just being up front and putting cars laps down and trying to put the race away. But, right there at the end, Bobby got two tires and we came out behind him. I had a lapped car on the inside of me on that restart and I was sitting there thinking I was going to be OK because if I could get clear of these lapped cars I figured I could race Bobby and get by him. But, the '32' had a flat tire. We went down into the first corner on that restart and he just went up into the side of me and we went up the racetrack together. I know he couldn't have done much about it. We're both real lucky we didn't wreck or tear our cars up worse than we did. I got shuffled way back and had to fight back.
"But, we really had a top two or three car today and it was real fortunate to get that third place at the end there."
ON WINNING LAST WEEK AND RUNNING WELL THE WEEK AFTER HERE
"That's basically what we did last year. We won Talladega and then we came here and run third or second or something like that. So, we've got these two tracks down pat.
"This track here is tough, now. You can come in here with all the confidence in the world and have a great race car, but you can sure get it tore up real quick and easy if you ain't careful. We dodged a bunch of bullets today and come out with a few extra blisters, but other than that, it was a pretty good day. I was real happy for my team. They did a great job."
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS A CONTENDER FOR THE POINTS TITLE?
"I'll believe it when we win it. This is a long season and a lot can happen. We were in this same situation last year, coming out of here with a top five finish. We were solidly in fifth or so in the points going into our first weekend off and didn't have much of a season after that until the end again.
"I feel like we can do this all year long. If we do, we do. We've got to keep trying to keep working hard. We can't get really lackadaisical or too confident. We have to continue to have a lot of respect for our competition and where we stand up against them at some of these racetracks we're coming up to - like Pocono and what-not."
ON HOW CLEAN THE FIRST PART OF THE RACE WAS AND WERE THERE ANY COMMENTS MADE AT THE DRIVERS MEETING ABOUT KEEPING IT CLEAN?
"There weren't any comments. I really didn't pay much attention. But, I don't remember hearing any comments about keeping it clean.
"I think why the race was cleaner today was that there was just a little bit more rubber down on that bottom groove and it was almost tolerable at times to run down there, where when they first just ground it and we came here and raced at the end of last year, you couldn't touch it. You didn't want to be down there. You didn't want to be side by side with nobody and drove in the side of them every chance you got to get by them. This weekend you could run on the bottom, guys didn't knock the doors off of each other's cars. That's what I saw. When I was here in the fall when I was side by side with somebody, I carried them up the racetrack and made them get out of the gas and give up the spot - every chance you got. Today you didn't have to. You really didn't feel like you were having to force it. Both grooves were successful, so it was just good racing. The track is about where it needs to be - just a little bit more grip up off on the bottom and this is going to be a good race, I think, coming here at the end of the season. After that, they might have to grind it again."
IF YOU HADN'T GOTTEN CAUGHT UP IN THAT RESTART, WOULD THE OUTCOME HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT?
"I don't know. The '24' car was really good all day. Maybe at times, he and I were back and forth as far as being the best. He was really good at long runs. You saw the difficult time he had getting around Bobby, so I can't say whether I would have won or what. The '24' might still have won, Bobby might have won, who knows? We might all have wrecked. But, I feel like I would have had a better chance. When we got pushed up the racetrack, the caution came out, there were about 40 to go - it's real hard to get by them guys. You saw mostly that track position stayed the same all day. There really wasn't a lot of passing, as far as the top three or four or five cars. Those five stayed in the top five the majority of the day, so I knew when we got pushed back there - winning the race was pretty much out of the question and just tried to get what we could get and not spin the tires off of it trying to get back to the front - just try to get third or second or whatever we could get."
WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE IN A SHORT TRACK RACE, AS FAR AS BUMPING THE LEADER OUT OF THE WAY?
"It depends on if you're running second. It depends on who is leading, too.
"There are some guys that you won't knock out of the way, for respect reasons, and there are some guys that you disrespect and you want that opportunity to knock them out of the way for the win. I can't say if that was a factor today. But, I think Bobby is probably one of the most respected guys on the racetrack and I saw Jeff lean on him. But, that's all Jeff could do. Jeff had to muscle him. Jeff didn't just send him up the racetrack. But, it was pretty good racing from where I was sitting. There was a little bit of bumping and carrying on, but I guarantee you that three-quarters of the field would have done a whole lot worse."