2ND PLACE FINISHER DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS, AND 3RD PLACE FINISHER DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX MONTE CARLO SS: THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to now to be joined post race at the Pennsylvania 500 by our runner up in ...
2ND PLACE FINISHER DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS, AND 3RD PLACE FINISHER DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX MONTE CARLO SS:
THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to now to be joined post race at the Pennsylvania 500 by our runner up in today's race, that's Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the No.8 Budweiser Chevrolet; and also our third place finisher, and that's Denny Hamlin, driver of the No.11 FedEx Chevrolet.
Dale, great comeback you had out there today. Talk about your thoughts about this race.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, we started out on some crazy front shocks. Car was beating on the ground and traveling a good half-inch more than we'd been doing all weekend. I talked Tony Junior into changing the left front shock, so we changed the left front shock and then we could run with everybody. I was pretty happy at the end.
We just got track position taking two tires. And then we just - the guys behind me, Denny and them guys, were a little quicker, but we had the wind and the clean air so we were able to hang onto second there. Pretty happy.
THE MODERATOR: You had strong performances in the past two years at this track. Talk about your thoughts about today's race.
DENNY HAMLIN: We fought brake issues right from the getgo. I didn't have a pedal and we I couldn't enter the corners as hard as what I needed to. We went with a total different brake package than what we had here in the past and it bit us a little bit.
I learned to drive with the old brake package and now with the new one I couldn't quite get around here. So fought the car for most of the day, tight and loose, back and forth, but for the most part it was just a little bit off.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Denny Hamlin raise your hand and we'll bring you the mic.
Q: For Denny, did you pay attention at all to where you are in the points as far as finishing ahead of Jeff Gordon since he has such a huge points lead at this point?
DENNY HAMLIN: No, not really. I mean, it didn't matter one way or another. Just for emotional and mental reasons I wanted to keep him behind me. If he got around me on there on the last lap that would have bugged me all week, so I was going to do whatever I had to keep him behind me. It didn't matter about the points, though.
Q: For either of you, have either of you been in a race before where one guy was as dominating as Kurt Busch was today? And how frustrating is it to know that you're running good and don't have a prayer of catching him unless he breaks?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I've been in several races where people have dominated, and, yeah, you just look for a little bit of smoke coming from the care sooner or later. Hope that that happens.
If not, yeah, he was way, way fast. Obviously nobody had anything for him, but I don't think anybody was going to adjust in that direction and get there. He was just fast.
Q: Denny, any thoughts?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, his car looked a lot like mine did last year. He could cut through traffic really fast and that's where our strong suit was last year. We could just buzz by cars and the aero really didn't matter. I think he had that same deal this week.
Q: For both of you, Dale, in your position now with five races to go, you're racing to stay in the Chase. Denny, it seems to be now is the time that wins are going to be big. Talk about how there might be a different approach that both of you would take.
DENNY HAMLIN: I was going as hard as I could go. There's no way I was going to catch the No. 2 (Kurt Busch) or anything else. Yeah, I had the mindset that, yeah, I can maybe crash trying to win, you know, and afford it.
But still you don't want to do that because you don't want to tear up race cars that you're going to need in the Chase and you don't want to get the guy's morale down. You still need good solid runs. That goes as far as winning races, in my opinion.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm just running as hard as I can run and trying to be as smart as I can be. I don't really think about it too much. I got a whole lot of other stuff to worry about. I just run as good as I can every week and finish where I finish.
I think we're a better team than 12th or 13th now. I think we're way better than that. We just had a lot of the bad luck and we cheated and got caught. So, you know, those type of things have hurt us a lot in the points.
But we're way better than this and I think the cream is going rise to the top, so I ain't too worried about it.
Q: That plays into my question. Dale, it seems like you're not really backing down from the this, and even with the beverage war like you were just talking about on TV. What is your motivation to bring that publically out, that challenge? Are you trying to challenge yourself or your team?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was just beating you guys to it. I don't know. I mean, we stole that pole this weekend, you know, with the weather and all. We stole it from the Miller car. That's really cool, and I know St. Louis is really happy about that.
I'll tell you this: They lay a piece of paper on August's desk every week and there's like three cars highlighted on it, and they're starting to highlight the other cars, the liquor cars. They've always paid attention. It matters when you win and run good, but they'd rather you just outrun all the other beer cars.
That's always been the case. They told me that from day one. I know that he's going to put up a great challenge. I just want to get up there and not finish 12th but I want to finish 8th or 7th, so we're going to run real hard. Only got a few races, but I think we'll do just fine.
Q: It's strikes me as odd to see you guys sitting there. If you were, in I'd say the top nine points, they're like fake points. They don't mean anything. They're fictitious points. Because wins are what make it for the Chase. But if you are where you were points mean everything. I mean, convince me how that cannot be.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You want to give it a shot? (laughter)
DENNY HAMLIN: It really doesn't. Basically we're racing for team morale and wins right now. That's it. Points don't matter. We're not mathematically locked in by my means, but we can give up a few each week.
So, yeah, we're racing to try to get the guys pumped up and ready for the Chase and the pit crew going on time and trying to get their timing all down. But for the most part, we're just trying to - you can't just throw caution in the wind and end up getting in a couple crashes.
Next thing you know, you're behind on cars and you got your guys that are tired working till midnight every night trying to fix the cars that you wrecked just trying to get a bogus win. I don't approach it any differently, but at the end of day I'm in the looking at the points sheet.
Q: Talk about the shock change
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I didn't know they were going to change the shock until we came down pit road. I thought we were going to lose a lap, because I wasn't really relieved because you don't know the shock is going to fix it. You don't know what the hell the thing is going to drive like.
It drove pretty bad and was getting progressively worse. There was nothing to lose and everything to gain, but that don't always work out. So Tony Junior knows what the shock is and what he's putting on there, and that's why I trust him. They did a good job and made the right choice.
Q: Dale, it's got to feel a little bittersweet to place second and still drop in the points standings. Can you talk about that a little bit. How does that feel? What is that like to race so well and still drop like that?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: That beer on Tuesday night might go down a little slower, otherwise I'll be fine. I'm not too worried about it, you know. I got all the confidence in the world in my team. If I don't run second, man, we lose a lot of points to Kurt. I'm glad we run second. Where were we in the middle that race? We were tanking. So this is a blessing in disguise if you want to look at it your way. I'm going to look at it that way.
But I'm pretty happy to run second. We didn't deserve to run second. We didn't have a second place car. So we got to feel pretty lucky actually to have stayed that close to him.
Q: With Watkins Glen on the next race up, are there any concerns there? Kurt typically runs a little bit better on the road courses than you have been. That's for Dale.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Did you ask me about road courses?
Q: Kurt runs a little bit better than you do there on average.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Really? (laughter) I don't know about that. Are you sure? I've had some pretty good runs at the Glen. Man, yeah, he's pretty good there. That team, you know, has always been good there. We're going to run hard and, you know, maybe - you know, I ain't going to put my teammate in the challenge or in the mix, but Kurt's not the only guy that we can catch.
So, you know, maybe Kurt gains a couple more points and maybe we win at the road course. You never know. We were pretty good at Sonoma and I'm terrible there. The car carried me all weekend. I think I'm pretty decent at the Glen, so if we can both meet on the same page we might be pretty good.
Q: For Denny, given your success last year why the change in the brake package? And why would you try something that you weren't as comfortable with?
DENNY HAMLIN: They don't make the brakes that I had last year anymore. We had to improvise. We actually made our own brakes, so it wasn't as good as last year for sure. You know, we just tuned to a certain brake package and at the last minute changed it and it threw everything off in my opinion.
So we just we're trying different things. We felt like after yesterday we didn't have the best car so we're going to try to do things maybe a little off the wall to get a win, and this week was no
exception. We knew what we had in the past was race winning, this racetrack, and everyone would agree, this racetrack was totally different this week than we had ever seen here in the last three races. We had to change accordingly.
Q: Can you talk about the race track?
DENNY HAMLIN: To me it was really slick, a lot slicker than it been here in the past. I know the lap times at one point during the race were in the 57s or something like that, at least I was. I don't know about the rest the field.
So I think this racetrack is starting to age. It's really getting bumpy. It's really hard to keep the car under you in Turn 3, and it's aging starting to get more and more bumps.
Q: Dale, can you talk about the spin you had in Turn 3, how you were able to keep it off the wall. And then when Kurt was able to come up on you and make the pass were you able to put up any kind of a fight to hold him off?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, I mean when you're watching the guy come at you in the mirror that fast, you're just counting that maybe I can lead one more lap, one more lap. Yeah, I got loose in the tunnel and he was coming by.
Q: How about the spin in turn three?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I had a flat tire and I was trying to get to pit road and it was coming apart.
DENNY HAMLIN: A lot of racing skill.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Tons of skill.
Q: At a racetrack where it's already a long, long day, now, when you're running for second and third, I mean, does it make it a whole lot longer knowing that either one guy is going to win or he's going to break? Are you too busy to worry about it, or is it demoralizing?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was busy watching to see if I would beat Denny through this corner, see if I beat him through that corner. See if anyone behind him was coming.
DENNY HAMLIN: I think he was busy look in his mirror, because every time I went high he went high and every time I went low he went low.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Exactly. I wasn't even worried about Kurt. Kurt could have the win. Obviously he was the best car. But I was running with about a fifth place car trying to hold off the rest of them guys. I was busy thinking about that."
-credit: gm racing