DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "We had a real good car all day in practice. In qualifying, I was just a little bit too loose getting in the corner. We were just a couple hundredths from getting the pole and I think I...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"We had a real good car all day in practice. In qualifying, I was just a little bit too loose getting in the corner. We were just a couple hundredths from getting the pole and I think I could go back over my lap and know exactly where I lost it. Just getting down into turn three on my second lap I was just a little too loose to be able to turn the wheel down and get the car to the bottom. I kind of went through there about three or four feet off the bottom of the track. I didn't really lose time, as far as speed was concerned, but made the track that much longer. That's probably the difference."
ON THE TEAM BEING SO CONSISTENT THIS YEAR "We've just had good race car. If the car is good I can drive it to the front and that's what we've had every weekend pretty much, except for Rockingham. That's the only track we went to where we really didn't have a chance in hell. Other than that, it's been good.
"I'll tell you one thing that is a pleasure this year and that is that Tony (Eury) Jr., ain't changing tires. He's on that pit box and he's not doing five different things at once. He's able to do one or two jobs really good, instead of five or six jobs 'as best he can.' We don't argue hardly as much as we used to. It's a real pleasure talking to him over the radio during the race. He kind of sees a little more of what I'm doing and what's going on in the race, instead of having his head in what's going on with the tires or whatever back behind the pit box and all. That has really helped us a lot. Our pit crew is a lot better. I'm confident when I come down pit road that we're going to have decent stops. We still make mistakes, but there is a lot of youth on that 'over the wall gang.' My uncle Danny - he's got a couple more years, he says, and he's going to have to hang it up. But, most of them guys are in their 20s, so we've got speed and youth over the wall and we've got brains, determination and experience up on the pit box. I think the combination is awesome, as far as that goes. We're making good changes in the pits during practice and stuff. Every week we've always been able to improve on the car, where before we hadn't ever been able to do that.
"Really what we rolled off the trailer is what we raced. We'd try like hell to change and make it better, but we just never really could improve on what we already had. This year we're able to do things. It's always funner when you run better. It's easy to point where all the great (stuff) is happening, but in just in a matter of a couple of weeks it could be all to hell again. We're just trying to keep the momentum we've got, keep doing what we're doing and stay positive, stay focused.
"We've had some things happen, like the qualifying in Atlanta. We really messed up there and we started in the back. And, we've done a few things with some motor changes that started us in the back. In years before, we'd just be all tore to hell about it and be upset at each other and just be in a bad mood going into the race. We've all been able to stay positive and stay cheered up and cheer each other up about things like that happening to us."
DOES IT PUT MORE PRESSURE ON YOU IN QUALIFYING WHEN YOU ARE THE FASTEST CAR IN PRACTICE? "It really puts a lot of pressure on the driver when you go out there and put a lap down in practice that is the fastest. The team wants you to go back out there and repeat that. I told them the car was good enough to do it. I just made a few mistakes. I knew the car was loose in, but I still should have been able to get to the bottom and cut the corner off like I could have or did in practice. I was a little disappointed because we could have gotten the pole and didn't. But, third is a real good starting spot here. We'll get us a good choice of pit. Pit is very difficult here. We'll be able to get us a good choice of pit."
WHAT IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS HERE? "We've run in the top five five times out of seven races here, I think - something like that. We just always run good here and it's always with the same setup. Every time we try to improve or think we're going to improve we never really do. This is kind of a baseline setup that we've had for a while and it's always really worked good for me. When you keep putting that in there that's just experience showing that you're able to really have confidence in that setup. Pit stops, things like that - you've got to have a good car, but there's really not much to running good here. You're got to have your car driving good, make no mistakes on pit road. Other than that, if you have those two things you can stay in the top five all night. You can't be running into people and knocking the fenders off of it. You've got to sit there and kind of fall into position. It takes a lot of discipline to be like that all night long. But, if you play your cards right you can get you a good finish out of here and we're expecting to be able to do that."
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH MATT KENSETH "Believe it or not, me and Matt still are good friends. Between mine and his personality it's real possible - even in this business - to stay good friends. When we weren't racing each other - over the past two years - we talked less. I think we talk more now than we have over the past two years. When we get into situations that are similar we always get together and kind of joke about it and pick on things. We like picking on everything."
"We've been talking a lot about how our cars have been driving - just normal stuff - and kind of trying to run into each other off of the racetrack. We've got a Sunday off coming up. We're going to try to meet each other out on the lake and stuff like that. He's a good guy, good attitude, good friend of mine and I'm really excited that we're battling each other. Hopefully, that will be the way it is all year long. We'll be up front together. He's got to be one of the top three drivers on the circuit right now and when I outrun Matt, I feel like I've beaten one of the best in the series at this time, so I like racing him for that reason, but also just because he is a good friend of mine."
ON DOMINANCE IN THIS SPORT "This sport changes so much over the years that it's really hard to be dominant. We are a good team. Politics and a lot of other teams intervene and move people around. You get people hired away from you all the time because of success and politics. It's really hard to keep the total package for anybody, I think, in the garage. It's hard to really find that sheer consistency that you're running up in the top 10 and the top five every week, for any team - even the veteran teams. Over the past three years I didn't really put a big emphasis and winning the championship or trying to win the championship because I didn't feel like we had all the potential that we needed. We didn't have the full package that we needed. There were just some things that I knew were going to bite us. But, this year we've got a good opportunity. I think you start out every year with either that in mind or without it. I don't think we're sitting here looking at the Bud team starting out this year and doing really well - say we do win the championship or battle for it or whatever - that don't mean we're going to go on a five-year tear. That depends on how much money you've got in your pocket these days. If you can afford to really get what you need and get the best stuff, then you can stay on top or have the ability to stay on top. But, it's tough. It's tough to keep people inside the gates these days."