An Interview With: RICK HENDRICK DALE EARNHARDT JR. TONY EURY JR. THE MODERATOR: This is your 18th victory in 306 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, your first win since Richmond 2006. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your run ...
An Interview With:
DALE EARNHARDT JR.
TONY EURY JR.
THE MODERATOR: This is your 18th victory in 306 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, your first win since Richmond 2006. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your run today.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: Well, we started to race out we started out the race pretty good. Had about a Top 5 car, and we were real loose on the first 20 laps of the run and we were probably one of the best cars on the track the last 20 laps of the run.
We just lost so much track position distance mainly, not spots so much, from the leader in the first 20 laps of every run with the car being so loose. But I felt like we had a Top 5, definitely a Top 10 car. We came in that last stop, we were going to be about six laps short, and I saved six laps of gas.
So just real lucky. I've got to hand it to Tony Junior for being a risk taker, not so much audacity wouldn't be a good word, but it's close to that. He's done a good job this year of getting us good finishers, better finishers than we probably should have. Normally would not take the risk to trade the Top 5 for a possible win because normally half the time it doesn't work out, but we did the right thing today.
So, it was a real good car. Happy Father's Day to everybody. My guys had really, really good stops and the car was great, the motor was great, the body was good, the chassis was good, set up was really close, and we didn't mess with it too much all day, just really loose, too loose to start with on the first few laps of the tire run. And that's pretty much it.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by Tony Eury, Jr. and Mr. Rick Hendrick. Tony tell us about your day from the pit box.
TONY EURY, JR.: Today was pretty good. We had a Top 5 car like he said most of the day and I just kept making little bitty changes. Because you can go over an edge with this car really easy, and it was basically, you can start out really loose but at the end and be really tight.
I looked at it today as we had a Top 5 car and that was as good as we were going to get. Come down to the last caution, we were six laps short, and the caution come out six laps later after we stopped. So I actually called up Stevie and I asked him: "Are you going for it?"
And he's like: "No, I ain't going for it." I'm like, okay.
Those cautions helped out and reduced it to two laps short. I'm like, "Look, Dude, I'm not going any further forward because the. Car did not really respond good with the two tires, so just chill out and save some fuel. You have a pretty good caution behind you." And I knew some guys, the next caution, the guys stopped, so they could make it.
So we are sitting here at the tail end of the guys that could make it and I'm telling him, just save gas because worst case scenario, we finish 25th, so who cares, go for it. And if not, you're going to wind up 25th or win, if things just roll right. That was kind of the scenario we was going on. And he was sitting there running around and Jamie started coming up on him and I knew Jamie could probably make it.
And I told him: Look, we've got to race that guy and when the caution came out, I was pretty sick, I was like, okay, we're done, but I could make 200; 2 02, we're in trouble. I told him as soon as the caution comes out, shut it off. And coasting around like he did is probably what got us the win. He's done it the last couple weeks, did a good job of saving fuel and we knew what he had. So I'm going to be honest with you, my nerves is pretty tore up right now because (Laughter).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: You made me feel good. I ain't never seen you as tore up as you are, but I was not that tore up. I was he told me with 20 to go, he told me that scenario. He said: "There's guys behind us that are going to make it and you're going to get beat by them if you pit. And if we go for it, and if we run out, we're going to finish 25th. If we pit we're going to finish 25th, so go for it."
So I started saving gas and I was like, all right, cool, man, no problem, no pressure, just save fuel, and if we don't win, with he don't win, no big deal. Because we run good all day and I was satisfied with the showing that I had put up all day. You know, looking at finishes just on a sheet of paper, you never really see the truth about how good a team is and I feel really happy how we run today.
So I was pretty much content and I didn't have really any nerves. I wasn't nervous at all. I'm always nervous in those situations but I real will wasn't for should reason. Which I can check Jamie came and I told Tony Junior, I said: "Am I supposed to race Jamie, or am I supposed to let him go and save fuel?" I was only running quarter throttle on a straightaway.
He was like, "Ooohhh, I don't know. 10 4." (Laughter) He didn't have an answer. He's like: "I don't know what to tell you, man." I said, "Well, who's leading?" They took the frigging scoreboard down, and you can't see who is leading; I can't read that thing in the middle. I'm like, well, hell, I don't know who is leading.
He's like, "You're leading."
I'm like, oh, hell, I should probably try to win because there was five to go or tour to go and I passed Jamie back, and I started saving, which Jamie passed me back and I'm like, dang, are we saving or racing? So it was really comical actually. It looked like we were racing like hell, but we were just pedaling by each other about half to quarter throttle. Probably looked like we was racing as hard as hell, and I'm actually like 3/8ths on this straightaway, and he's like, well, I'm mash it 3/8ths and go by you; so I'll mash it a quarter. It was funny. When the caution come out, I was dejected, of course, but it is what it is. You know, we got to try and we've been beat so many times like this, it feels really good to do it.
Q: Can you just describe at what point the car actually did run out, was it on the back stretch when you caught the white flag, and did you have to dive down in turn three to pick up fuel and did you find some fuel there to get you back across?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: No. It ran I turned it off when the caution come out but I cranked it up around three and four and it ran fine all the way to the flag it. Ran out just as I turned and was coming back this way on pit road coming toward my guys, it was out of gas.
You know, it come off the floor to the white stumbling, but that could have been a pocket error in the line from riding around under the pace before that, before the restart.
Q: With laps left
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: I think I made it. The centrifugal force would have given me a better opportunity to make it pushing the gas. Running hard in the corner, I would have sent more gas to the right side of the fuel cell, caution comes out you're coasting around, the fuel is not being pushed into the right side of the fuel cell and it run as way from the pick up, even on the apron so it runs away from the pick up and you're still in some banking there. Riding around on a caution, if I had to ride around under caution, it would have run out when it ran out but it had enough to win the race and win under green, I believe. We had saved just enough.
Q: Passing the pace car under the yellow, everybody jumped on Biffle pretty hard last year when they had that thing at Kansas. What's the rule as you guys know it, and were you basically going to do it until NASCAR told you to stop?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: Pretty much. I didn't know how much they were going to worry about it.
Everybody, all of the cars out there, are gassing it, shutting them off, coasting about a half straightaway, cankering back up, gas it, coast, shut it off, and everybody's doing it. Everybody, I've been involved in seeing I myself have done it and I've been around other drivers that have done that for about a year. Maybe they have been doing it longer but I just started doing it here recently whenever I need to save gas if I'm under caution, I turn the motor off.
But you know, there's no rule specifically against that, but I was getting a little greedy and making my car coast. I wanted to coast farther, so I would gas it harder and coast pass the pace car and just let him come on and catch back up and that way I could keep my motor on longer. But NASCAR said if I did it again he was going to park me or what did they say exactly?
TONY EURY, JR.: They just said: "Tell him not to be passing the pace car, don't do it no more."
And I'm like: "Look, don't pass the pace car no more."
And they were like: "Okay, you're good, don't do it again." I was like, all right.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: Yeah, I can understand how it might look if, especially if you're not a Dale Junior fan. (Laughter) Yeah, I guess you might not be too, I know exactly what they are going to say Monday. But hell with it.
I mean, there's going to be so many different my fans are happy and I'm happy for them. The other half are going to tear this apart on how we won this race but I got the trophy and I got the points and I got to see my team and my owner and my family tonight happy as they have been in a long time.
So the win is pretty special to me. I won here in the Busch Series, but we ain't never really won here in the Cup. This is a great racetrack, being in Detroit, being close to Detroit, General Motors, haven't won here in a long time, Rick told me, so it's a pretty big day for us.
Q: At the beginning of your run, saying how important it was going to be for NASCAR for you to win again and in lieu of everything that happened last week with the dark cloud, how big is this victory for NASCAR?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: Oh, I don't know. There's other people in this room that know that answer and probably could do a better job I think everybody could probably do a better job than I could with that one.
I think it's good for the sport. But the sport has done well this year with ratings. Attendance is back and forth, up and down. But maybe that's more due to the heat and the gas prices and stuff like that. I think the racing is the same; the way it plays out and the drama and the excitement of coming to a race and the experience that you have all weekend or just on Sunday, whichever you choose, is still as fun as it's always been.
But I'm happy for my team, I'm happy for our corner, and it's really big. I know what it means for our little corner over here, but if it helps NASCAR and makes NASCAR happy and it does something for NASCAR, then great, I'm happy to be a part of that. Better than I won the race and nobody be happy about it.
If it helps Brian, and he's excited about that, then great. But we worked so hard to get the win regardless. My team worked really, really hard to get good preparation, starting the season and be consistent all year, and I missed the joy and I missed winning and hopefully we'll have some more before the season is out. We got ten bonus points going into the Chase, so we never had that, even when we made the Chase.
Q: Another clarification, I think Brian Vickers talked about the car getting pushed, but I think you were on the radio saying nobody ever pushed you, right?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: No. I got pushed by my team at my pit stall into victory lane.
Q: But you got no push?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: No.
Q: And what was it like to come this with your team pushing you and being out of gas?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: It might have cranked. I thought it was a better story to be out of gas. (Laughter) Think about it, man, when is the last time you seen a race team pushing a car into victory lane? In the old days they used to ride them in, but the insurance companies don't allow you to ride them in month more. I guess you could, but we'd be in trouble. It's good. It makes for great TV. We'll have some great pictures to look at.
Q: How much does it wear on your confidence, it's not like you've been struggling and it seems like you've been third in points forever, but the last couple years, have there been quiet moments where you started to think you would never win again?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR: You know, not really. I never wondered, man, will I never win again. You know, I'm going to be around here if I can have my way, I'll be around here for quite a while but I'll have good opportunities driving good race cars for hopefully a good time and more opportunities to win.
I just you know, the winless streak didn't frustrate me as much as most people would think and I was so happy to be where I am and so satisfied with how we've ran to this point, that I wasn't really I wasn't that frustrated about not winning. I felt really fortunate to have what I had.
So as much as I wanted to win, you know, I couldn't get away from just feeling really fortunate and feeling really lucky and man, I've got a great team, look at my cars, they are so awesome, and look how well they are built and look at my guys, they are so dedicated and everybody believes. I just feel so lucky.
Then Brad won at Nashville and I saw Tony senior and the whole team and then we had our little deal back at the shop on Monday and then we went and ate lunch together on Wednesday, and it reminded me of the joy that I had forgotten.
I knew winning is going to make me happy, but I forgot really the look on everybody's face and the look I would see once we won on Tony Junior's face, Rick's face, my sister, my PR people, all my team. And I started to remember, you know, watching Brad win, I'm like, man, I've got to get back to victory lane, I miss it so bad.
So I missed that, and that was the motivation for me to get back to victory lane. But the winless streak wasn't bothering me. I was stilling running good. I was still making a case for my job and having my job, you know what I mean. I still had a good effort and felt like I was doing what I was told. Just a matter of circumstance before we really, you know, put one in victory lane.
Q: Just how tough was it in those last laps, and you guys talked about, you know, he said with 20 laps to go, he asked, do we race, do we not and he got really basically no answer. I'm assuming that's happened before, or has that been a case where he's asked in that type of situation and you've not been able to give him an answer because you didn't know or weren't ready to give it to him at that point?
TONY EURY, JR.: Like Charlotte, we had our incident, and there at the end of the race, we were like, okay, our goals have shift, instead of trying to win the race, we're going to try to get a Top 5 so I pretty much told him when he left pit road, I told him don't do nothing to save fuel from now to then. We have changed our goals, we'll get a Top 5 even if it goes green. He asked me at the end he and Jeff are riding around and he's like, okay, can I go, can I go and I'm like, no, just chill.
He asked me so many times about ten laps to go, just go, you know, just go. And it's like the same thing here. We're in a situation where you're two laps short and it's hard for me I can look on that Hot Pass and see the throttle halfway, but I can't tell you how much gas he's saving, and nobody on pit road does. You can tell a driver to save gas, but it's very hard to understand.
Like Michael Waltrip two years ago, I told him when he left pit road: All right, we're going to save gas, save four Jeremy Mayfield won the race, he ran out right where he's supposed to, and he's telling me to save four, so the driver knows what he's saving, you know, and that was in the middle of a situation where, okay, do you Top 5 it or do you go for the win and then don't run out? That was basically where I was at, it's like a Catch 22 question. Okay; are we rolling dice or say, okay, I'm going to take my Top 5 and get my points and I'll see you in Sonoma.
I think both of us wanted to win pretty bad, and we just said, you know, go for it. And when the caution come out, it was like, misdemeanor, this ain't going to be good. And it was just like, okay, go now. It don't matter. Go run out, it's a good, good chance to run out now, for sure.
So just let it eat and that's what he was doing there at the end. He pulled away, and you don't want anybody to have a misopportune ? but I was like, please, somebody hit something. (Laughter).
Q: When is the last time that you rolled the dice to go for a win?
TONY EURY, JR: I think it was with Michael. That was the last time that I've actually just said, you know what, I'm going to pay for your mileage gain and just go for it, and that would be in '05, we come up two laps short and Mayfield won the race. I don't gamble much, that's for sure. I don't even go to Vegas and give them $20, because the lights is on there for a reason.
Continued in part 2