Pocono II: Pole winner interview

Dale Earnhardt Jr. , No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS, pole winner for Pennsylvania 500 THIS IS YOUR 7TH CAREER NASCAR NEXTEL CUP POLE AND YOUR FIRST POLE SINCE SEPT. 29, 2002 AT KANSAS. TAKE US THROUGH YOUR LAP: "Well, the car handled perfect....

Dale Earnhardt Jr. , No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS, pole winner for Pennsylvania 500

THIS IS YOUR 7TH CAREER NASCAR NEXTEL CUP POLE AND YOUR FIRST POLE SINCE SEPT. 29, 2002 AT KANSAS. TAKE US THROUGH YOUR LAP:

"Well, the car handled perfect. We had a lot of help. First I want to credit Martin Truex, Jr. and Bono (Kevin Manion, crew chief on No. 1 Monte Carlo SS) and the Bass Pro guys. They're car was really good here last time and we learned a lot from that and brought a lot of those things back, mechanically, on our car; and it's been good all day long. So the car handled really, really good. I think we were going to be about anywhere from maybe fifth to 12th had the weather not came. And the weather come and cooled the track down a little bit and obviously that's going to help us quite a bit to be able to go even later in the day. It sped the track up for us to be able to take advantage of that and get the pole. So I was really happy about that. The lap was simple. The car was handling so well that the lap wasn't a whole lot of issues on the lap itself. The weather helped us out a good bit. The track dried fast so they didn't have to use the jet blowers too much. Like any other c ar, the jet blowers burn oil and that oil comes out the exhaust and it films the track up a little bit for the next guy to go. The track dried so fast they didn't have to blow the track for too long. I was really happy."

TONY EURY JR. SAID THAT HAVING HIM BACK AT POCONO OUGHT TO GIVE YOU ABOUT FIVE OR SIX SPOTS. OTHER THAN THAT, HAS IT BEEN MORE OF A RELIEF TO HAVE HIM AROUND? WHAT DO YOU CREDIT, OTHER THAN TRUEX, WITH BEING STRONG ON THE BIG FLAT TRACKS?

"Tony Jr. is a talented crew chief and with him on board I feel I can consistently compete and be competitive. As the technology evolves in this sport, some crew chiefs can keep up and some can't. Tony Jr. is one of the guys that understands new technology. A lot of guys are followers and some guys are innovators. He's an innovator. He comes up with half this stuff. So, it's good to have a guy like that and that's why I kind of hold on to him so tightly now and need him and want to work with him the rest of my career. But sometimes, if you look at our track record, we get off track. If we get off track at a 1.5-mile track, we suffer at all of them, all the 1.5-mile tracks. If we get off track at Loudon or somewhere, we suffer at all the other flat tracks for the rest of the year until we figure out what the issue is or what the problem is. With Tony Jr. being as good as he is, or as he would like me to say great (laughter), it's helped tremendously this year to have Kevin Man ion and his team start bringing that type of innovation to the plate and to the forefront of the company to where when we go to places like this, I'm using a lot of things that they learned and know. That's how we ran so well at Indy, essentially the same set-up here as you run at Indy. We ran really good at Indy and Martin had this little trick they learned and we took it to Indy and we run good with it. So that's helped a lot too. You've got to give credit to them guys and to the whole company for continuing to provide us with great equipment and great personnel and healthy race cars and healthy race teams that come to the race track and work together during practice and produce decent handling and good driving race cars that we can run up front with. It's really a good feeling."

BEYOND THE TRACK COOLING DOWN, WERE YOU ABLE TO PICK UP ANY BENEFIT FROM BEING OUT THERE A LITTLE BIT TO MAKE ANY ADJUSTMENTS OR ANYTHING?

"Well, NASCAR won't let us make any adjustments to the car, I don't think. I was surprised that they let us even put another set of tires on. But when I first went out there it was raining a little bit. I felt I could still make the lap. But as I got going around the track, I got the green and when I went down into (Turn) 1, I couldn't even see it was raining so hard. And we don't have windshield wipers and we don't use Rain-X, which would have worked pretty good in that situation. By the time I got to Turn 3, the track was wet and I lost the corner and I lost the lap completely. And I didn't know; nobody said anything on the radio, but I just decided to come down pit road and not complete the lap. I didn't know what the etiquette was in that situation. Does NASCAR force me to rear? Does NASCAR let me run again? But they let us cool down and run again. Obviously the track wasn't in a situation to run on. That was kind of cool. I was surprised to get the tires. But we didn't m ake any adjustments. We just went right back out there."

DURING THE RAIN DELAY, YOU SIGNED A BUNCH OF AUTOGRAPHS AND MADE EVERYBODY HAPPY. TALK ABOUT THAT:

"Well, I don't know if everybody gets happy because if you walk away some of them cuss at you (laughter), but you've got to walk away at some point, so you just have to get cussed at some point. But we could joke about that all day long. But I think when the fans are there and they are three or four dip on pit wall and it's very uncomfortable. They've probably got somebody next to them that needs to change deodorant brands (laughter) and it's obviously not the best situation to be in. Imagine being in that position without me talking about how bad it can be. But it's sticky and hot and everybody is getting rained on and the blowers come by and blow stuff on you. I can't go back the bus because I'm going to have to get in the car and run at any moment. They have a lot of questions and it gives me an opportunity to hear what they're wanting to know and what their opinions are because you'd like to know what your fan base thinks. You can't get on the internet and read about it b ecause you run across so many other things that are ridiculous that you just have to get it from the horses mouth. So it's good to be able to talk to the fans when you can get them in a crowd like that and really listen to what they're saying. Some of them are congratulating us and wishing us good luck and if they didn't accept it at first, they seem to be excited about it over time. That's a good feeling. That really makes me feel good and makes me feel positive about continuing to work hard the rest of the year and continuing to race hard. Everybody gets their motivation from different areas. But I get a lot of my motivation from my fan base. And I'm sort of dependent on that. It's a good opportunity to get a little bit of an idea about what they're thinking."

ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT IT'S BEEN FIVE YEARS BETWEEN POLES?

"Yeah, I am. We almost got one at Dover. Newman got us there at the end. But I try to get them, but they are hard to get. And it's kind of cool. They're giving these flags out now. So we're going to hang that up somewhere. I don't put a lot of emphasis on poles. I probably do that because I don't get them but every so often. It's good to be able to go and run that Shootout and have gotten in there the right way. You've got all these guys around you who are the same age as you or younger, that you're very competitive with in this sport, and they're in there with poles. And you're standing there like some old man that's a past winner. And so it's good to get out there and get a pole every once in a while just to show you can and that you've still got it. Qualifying and racing are two different things. Qualifying takes a different type of discipline. And obviously we just didn't go out there in the blistering sun and run a lap off. We had a little help today, but I'm still prett y proud of my team."

AFTER THREE CONSECTIVE TOP 10'S, YOU'VE GONE ABOUT SIX RACES NOW WITHOUT A TOP 10. CAN YOU FEEL THE LOSS OF MOMENTUM? CAN YOU FEEL MOMENTUM RETURN? AND DOES THIS HELP?

"Well, the one thing you do feel I guess is more of a loss of confidence. You get to where you're laying in bed at two o'clock in the morning Wednesday night and you're calling Tony Jr. up waking him up and asking, 'Is that car going to be fast this weekend?' So that normally doesn't happen when we're running good. But he said that I had to stop calling him in the middle of the night (laughter). But I'm getting so frustrated. I try really hard to put on a good face in front of my team after we had issues like this past weekend. I try to put on a good face after that happens because they have to go back to work and they have to stay motivated and work hard and if I get out and throw things or cuss somebody or act like a fool, it just doesn't look good. And as bad as I wanted to get mad and be frustrated and be angry at not being able to finish the race that I felt like we were going to finish well in, you've just got to carry yourself with a better attitude. So, I feel like we keep the momentum by keeping the good attitude. We show back up here and we run well in practice as if we never had a problem last week. But the one thing that you do feel is during the week. Whenever I run bad, I want to get back to the race track again the next day. I want another shot. I want to re-do. I want whatever I can get. And you have to wait the whole week. And you sit around, sit around, sit around to wait to find out whether you're going to have another disappointment or some sort of success. So the weeks get long. And that's probably the only problem. I feel like we're not a 12th place team. We're a fifth place team if not, even more successful than that. We've had a lot of bad luck this year. And more bad luck than we normally have. Everybody goes through their little problems and has things happen to them during the race here and there. We've had a lot of things that we've normally not had before in the span of a season. I'm a little frustrated. But I still feel like we'll make the Chase with ease because we're such a good team. If we don't make the Chase, I'll be the most surprised person, not only in this room, but in this garage; because I feel totally confident that we've got control of it and we can get it done."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT KEVIN MANION AND HOW HE'S BEEN SUCH AN INSTRUMENTAL PART OF DEI AND HOW HE'S NOW BRINING MARTIN ALONG?

"Yeah, a lot of people wouldn't remember or recall that when I ran the No. 31 car in Michigan in 1997 in the Busch Series, it was about the seventh race of my Busch Series career, Kevin Manion was the crew chief. Kevin came with Steve Park. When Steve moved to run with Tony Eury Sr., Kevin was sort of like just getting passed around doing odd jobs within the organization and one of his odd jobs happened to be to crew chief my car one weekend. So we drove to the track in my Late Model gooseneck. And we ran seventh, and I was pretty proud to do that out of the gooseneck trailer. On the way there I told him we had to stop and get some CD's from Wal-Mart, but he refused to stop because he knew he wasn't going to like my taste in music anyway. But he was just so hell-bent and determined to stay the course and this was the job. We're going to race and nothing gets in the way of that. I'm like, come on man, pull her over and let's get some music, you know. Let's stop for a while and get some Sun-Drop. But he was really dedicated. But he was kind about it. When some guys get serious and they get angry when people don't follow suit. But he would get serious and when you didn't go his route, he was pretty kind about it and he had a good attitude. We've stayed friends and I always felt like that he was sort of a guy under the radar that was eventually going to be able to make his break and get on the scene and do some good things and he's doing that now. And he has a lot of talent when he puts his mind to it and stays focused on his studies within his notes and whatever his cars are doing and geometry and so forth; he's quite a talent. Hopefully everything will stay in order for him, personally and professionally, to where he can continue to excel in his career. I think he's got a great opportunity to do great things."

YOU JUST TALKED ABOUT THE CHASE AND SEVERAL OF THE GUYS AROUND YOU THAT ARE TRYING TO BREAK IN, ARE STARTING AROUND YOU IN SUNDAY'S LINE-UP. HOW MUCH DO YOU PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE GUYS AROUND YOU?

"I pay attention to them enough, I guess. Like when the No. 12 (Newman) crashed, I said where's the 12 and they said he'd wrecked. I kept that in the back of my mind for the rest of the race at Indy. I wanted to constantly remind myself, maybe every 20 laps, that I had the opportunity to gain quite a few points on him that day. So, I still took some risk. Me and Tony (Stewart) raced really hard there a couple of times on some restarts. That was a lot of fun. I'll take the risk and have the fun before I'll take it easy, especially when my car was as good as it was. So I do pay a little bit of attention to that. My team has a habit of not telling me that that's happened. If Kurt (Busch) blows up or somebody, they won't tell me about it. Which, I feel like, if I'm a crew chief, I want to tell my driver. Say hey man, this guy is having trouble or that guy is having trouble. Keep that in mind today. Try not to be in the same boat with them. Try to get the thing in the bag and get some points. But I don't know. They're just not very informative when it comes to those types of things. I have to pry the Redskins score out of them and everything when it comes down to it, even when they're winning. Tony Jr. is not much of a talker."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Martin Truex Jr. , Steve Park.