Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "I don't know what to say. I'm wore out. I need to thank my buddy, Tony (Eury), for hanging in there with me. I had a great car. It was a 100 percent car. He was with me tonight. I ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
"I don't know what to say. I'm wore out. I need to thank my buddy, Tony (Eury), for hanging in there with me. I had a great car. It was a 100 percent car. He was with me tonight. I don't know how I did it. Michael helped me. I guess we're even now. I'll be crying sooner or later. I feel so good right now. I'm worn out. I dedicate this win to him. Nobody else I could dedicate it to. We had an awesome car. I know I led a lot of laps, but I hope the fans liked it. This car was so good, I didn't know what else to do with it. This was an awesome night. I dedicate this win to him. I want to say 'hey' to Teresa back home. I hope she's loving this 'cause we sure are."
Michael Waltrip, No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
"That's the way it was supposed to be done, right there. Dale Earnhardt laid back there in third place and fought the battle of his life at the Daytona 500 for me and Dale Jr. to get home. And I was having to fight my rear end off. But the NAPA Chevy pushed Dale Jr. home and that's what we were hoping for. I knew my car was good, but you never know if you're going to get a hole. You could get locked in. You never know. I just did my part, man and the team did theirs."
Did you have anything for him, or did you need help?:
"I didn't even think about it. I wasn't going to pass him for nothing. I just wanted to push him home."
Was this payback time?:
"I just wanted Dale Jr. to win so bad. And I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't want to finish 10th or 12th. The NAPA Auto Parts Spirit of America hotrod was running. It was really fast. I was committed to Dale Jr., just like he was to me in February. And I'll tell you when I really learned a lesson: When I was running third. Protecting Dale Jr. and Rusty. And that's what Dale Earnhardt was doing in February. And that's a handful. They were all over me. But I stayed committed. I wasn't about to bail out on them. Dale Jr. called me on Monday morning after the Daytona 500 and said, 'I'm there for you, brother.' And he was. I just wanted to be part of it with him."
What were you saying to him when you two embraced on top of the car?:
"This is what it's all about. We were both so excited about coming to Daytona. This place is a part of our lives - more so than any other place in the world. We weren't more emotional than normal, we were just normal - as normal as we could be since we lost our friend. But we were excited about racing. And then to have it end like that, it was cool being on top of the car with Dale Jr. But he's young and they butt heads. I think I'm going to have a headache. And then he dove off the car. And I think I weigh more than everybody on my team and I didn't want to hurt them - or me. I crept off."
What was it like to help your teammate win?:
"All night long I just wanted to be right there with him. He had a fast enough car that he could win. The way that restrictor-plate racing works now, one person cannot win a race. It takes a combination of cars to do the job. When I was running third, behind him and Rusty, I knew what Dale Earnhardt was going through in the Daytona 500. Because when you're running third, everybody in the race can drive up beside you and get a run on you. But the front two cars just sit there. And I was looking at Rusty and Dale Jr. thinking that was me and Dale Jr. in February and Dale (Sr.) was back there fighting the battle. And I fought the battle for about 40 laps there and held everybody off of them. And then at the end, it was just a matter of trying to get to the front. Fortunately when I got to the front, the only guy that I didn't pass was Dale Jr. At that point, I just had to push him home.
"It is just a great, great feeling for our team and what a tribute to DEI. The driver made errors - twice. But fortunately they were there on pit road and you can get out of those sometimes. I slid through my pit once, and then couldn't find my pit the next time. I tried to get into someone else's. That's why I had to restart 15th with seven (laps) to go. But I knew my NAPA Auto Parts Chevy was a hotrod. It was kind of like the baseball player and the old adage of hit 'em where they ain't. And my adage was I'm going to drive where they ain't. It was just a great day for our team."
Could you have passed Dale Jr, and if so, would you have?:
"No, I couldn't have. Under the circumstances, there was just no way. When I got there, it was just two (laps) to go. Quite frankly, I was thankful. You don't understand what a battle that is to fight - to hold any position. And when they said two to go, I thought Jr. and I could get home from there. Passing him never was an option because I never had the opportunity. I just was so serious about getting there. And I was surprised when I did."
Since the Daytona 500, this is your first top ten finish. Does this put your team back on track?:
"I think we got back on track about three weeks ago, quite honestly. When I say that, our finishes are 29th 30th, and 20th up until tonight. But we were doing things better than we had been. The car was running better and handling better. We were just having some troubles. You can't just drop in on a race like this and be as competitive as we were without laying some groundwork. I believe that. The groundwork was laid for the Daytona 500 by our teammates. We didn't have any track record. We were just going off what our teammates had done and what they told us to do. So then we got to establish our own footing and it stunk. We didn't do a very good job. So then we had to wipe that all away and try to establish a better foundation. When we did that - three or four weeks ago - I think that was the key to tonight's finish."
What did you say to Dale Jr. after the finish?:
"I just told him that this was what it was all about. He called me on Monday morning after the Daytona 500 and the first thing he said was, 'I was committed to you, buddy.' Those words kept going through my mind all night long. When I was in third behind he and Rusty, and I could have passed Rusty, I just thought, 'Why would I want to do that? Dale Jr.'s having a nice ride right there in front. I'm going to stay here and fight the battle for him. At the end of the race, I just pushed him home.
"I was just so thankful that he won and that we were able to slice our way up there with our NAPA Auto Parts Chevy and run second so that I could be a part of his celebration. I told him I was proud of him and that I loved him."
How do I like working with Steve Hmiel and will he keep working with you?:
"I don't know what the future holds. I like the position that Steve is holding down right now for us and overseeing our operations. But right now he's in the pits and calling the shots. So that's giving him some hands-on experience. That's good for our team. And I'm happy about that. I hope he can continue for a while because I love his knowledge and experience. He's the first crew chief I've ever had who says, 'This is what were going to do -- boom, boom, boom.' He doesn't necessarily ask me what I think about it. He just feels that he has the answers and he is very confident and I like that a lot. He does a nice job of it.
"Thank you all. I've enjoyed this informal press conference. And now I think I'll go and have a Budweiser with Dale Jr."
More Comments from Dale Jr: Did you think you had a shot at the win tonight?:
"I definitely did. We had such a fast car last night in Happy Hour that I could just do whatever I wanted with it. I felt like if I made the right choices that my car was good enough. My car was the best car here. I think you all saw that. I was trying just to stay in the right line and keep the rpm's up on the car and it seemed like I could get out there three or four car lengths and it would take them a lap and a half to catch back up."
>From Tony Eury, crew chief, No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "When we unloaded, the car was fast. That made us feel good. We worked hard on two cars all winter long. We ran run in the Bud Shootout and one in the 500 in February. We went to Talladega with the Shootout car and felt it was better. Dale Jr. said he wanted to bring the 500 car back here. It tested strong and it just has always been strong. Last night in
Happy Hour it was just awesome. It seemed like anything we did to it didn't even bother it. It was just fast for some reason. Some days you get that, some days you don't. And this weekend we just had a good car. They did a great job with the engine and the body and Dale Jr. did a great job of driving it."
Dale Jr. on the emotion of winning
"It was okay. I didn't have any moments that were really any different. The very first lap I made around the racetrack felt different. It was kind of tough. After the first practice and qualifying run, it was just like always after that. I really didn't think much about what happened here in February. When we started the race today, I was more nervous about how good my car was than anything else. I just kept my mind pretty clear. As we were running and running, I started to realize how fast and how good a car it was and I thought we might have a good chance to win. And if it played out right, I knew it was going to be a pretty big deal. It's really big. And I was just telling Tony on the way over here that we just don't know how huge this (win) is. We're just going to try and have fun with it and just try and enjoy ourselves. There's a lot of people back home that are probably real happy. We just can't wait to get there to see them."
Was it hard to stay calm?:
"Once you get going, once you get the green flag, all you can do is what you can do. You try to pass the guys you can. It's really hard to stay hard calm because you're thinking about each car - how good they were in practice and all. You're kind of picking apart each car in front of you and if he pulled in front of you you're thinking about what you would do. You try to play out every scenario that ca possibly happen. But then it always ends up being the one you haven't thought of, you know. But that's what you do. I just think you always get real nervous on the cautions. I was saying to Tony (on the radio) 'Whatever happens if we win or if we don't, we should have and if we don't, we should have.' I felt like I had a car that could win and that if I didn't win that I made the wrong decision somewhere."
Tony Eury comment: "When the caution came out we were trying to decide whether to put on two tires or four tires. We had already made up our mind that we were going to gas and go. When the caution came out, it kind of disappointed us. When we stopped, we knew that if we had to put on any tires we had to put on four. We didn't want to take a chance of putting two on and messing up the car. We knew we was going to put on four. We didn't know how many (other drivers) was going to take on two. But the pit crew was awesome all night long. Usually no one likes the number one pit box on a superspeedway. They all bunch up in the center. But we didn't want to take a chance on getting boxed in. And that's what happened to Michael (Waltrip) a couple of times."
"The car was just flying. I can't tell you what Tony did, but it was just faster than anybody else. I could get right to the front and when I got to the front, nobody could catch me. Like, Mike Skinner tried to pull out and pass and then he'd end up back there in fourth or fifth. When we'd stay in line, four or five of us could just break away. And that's something you haven't seen since the rules change. With the roof flaps and stuff they got on the cars, nobody can keep up.
"But Tony and the guys work harder than any other team. There's more dedication in that shop right now than you'll find in any other shop. Every once in a while, you'll have a car that'll do that. It'll just dominate. It happens every once in a while, just like we had in The Winston. There wasn't a car out there within half a second of that car. And why? We don't know. I just feel fortunate it has happened to us quite often."
How has the emotions of the fans affected you?:
"When you're out on the racetrack, you really can't tell what's going on in the grandstands. When I'd pass people for the lead, I'd see that everybody has their arms raised and that kind of pumps you up. But all year long people have been pushing and pushing for us to do well. Then you start to feel a little pressure that you won't win for them and give them reason to root for you. So it's a good feeling tonight. That's why I pulled down on the front straightaway and jumped out. That was for the fans and nobody else. I led a lot of laps and it probably wasn't the best show in the world. There was a lot of good racing behind me to enjoy. I really wanted to jump up there and hear them cheer. It felt good."
What were your thoughts in the TriOval after the race?:
"I wanted to really do some good donuts. It seems like that's a competition here lately. But I was looking at my marks, and I don't think they were that good. I could have done better. But I saw Matt's (Kenseth) when he won the 600 last year and he did like a high-speed slide instead of a donut - and that's what I was going for. You're just so excited and you have so much energy inside of you that you've just got to get it out. You can't just go right into Victory Lane. You'll fall down. You've got to do some donuts and get out and get relaxed and jump up on top of the car and put out a few yells and get comfortable.
"And when Michael pulled in behind me with two laps to go, I just knew that he was going to help me. That's all I needed was for somebody to stay behind me. And I knew he wasn't going to make a move because I helped him in the Daytona 500 and I told him that I helped him, so he owed me."
Describe your overall emotions
"I never would have imagined this would happen. I never would imagine being so dominant and winning this race. I can't imagine it. I can't sit here and understand it. I can't believe this is happening to me. I don't know why this is happening to me. I'm just going to stay close to my friends and to Tony and the people that make me feel good and maybe I'll figure it out."