DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 OREO/RITZ CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (1ST): ON TODAY'S VICTORY "It was a good race. We had a great car. From last year's race I knew I needed to be up front to win. I couldn't pass Kevin when he was leading at the start of...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 OREO/RITZ CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (1ST):
ON TODAY'S VICTORY "It was a good race. We had a great car. From last year's race I knew I needed to be up front to win. I couldn't pass Kevin when he was leading at the start of the race and I knew that was kind of the situation anybody would have behind me if I could get the lead. So, we just kept doing two tire stops until the end of the race and had about 90 laps on our left-sides.
"That's exactly what we did last year and it worked out fine. My car kept turning good. It never got tight or started sliding around - plus we had several cautions throughout the period of the race, too, to help out.
"It was a good job by the whole organization. As small and new as it is, they're doing a good job of performing. There are a lot of expectations, but they're doing a good job."
DOES THE POSSIBILITY OF WINNING FOUR RACES IN A ROW HERE ADD PRESSURE TO YOU? "Yeah, it does. I wasn't really in the right frame of mind Thursday after the 125s. I was kind of upset because that just worsened the odds a little bit. But, I guess that they're so out of whack now that it really doesn't matter. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow. We worked on our car today. We ran quite a few laps, trying to work on the setup of the car and get the car more comfortable. It wasn't running too good this morning, but by the end of the day we were pretty happy. Other than that, we'll just see how it works out. Like I said, there is a lot of parity in the '500' and a lot of things can happen. There are so many turning points and things that are going on during the race. But, I'll just try to stay out of the way and in the way at the same time."
HOW DOES TERESA FEEL ABOUT THIS WIN? "Me and Teresa share a 50-50 role as owners in the team. I'm real happy. It really didn't dawn on me that I was sitting in a car that I owned until I was driving the car out for the first practice. I remember when I built my first late model from the ground. I made everything on it. I won my first race with it and there is no feeling like that and this is kind of similar to it. This is my little baby in a way. I was real proud of the team and real proud of the guys. They had a lot of pressure on them because none of them have a lot of experience. They just wanted to be able to hold up their end of the bargain. They were so worried that they were going to make mistakes on pit road or the car wasn't going to be right when we got here or we just weren't going to be able to back up everybody's expectations. I felt pretty bad for them. But, we just kind of kept a level head and everything just went real smooth for us."
HAVE YOU MADE PEACE WITH THE RCR DRIVERS? "Yeah, a little bit. I didn't mean to piss them off. But, I guess what I said would piss somebody off. It would piss me off. But, I talked to them. We all qualified right up there in the top three, so I saw them today at (driver) intros and talked to each of them. What I said and what I wanted to say were kind of two different things. It was a little asinine, the way I was acting in here the other day. But, sometimes you do that."
ON TRYING THE HIGH LINE WITH ABOUT FIVE LAPS TO GO "It's really tough to pass the leader in the Busch Series, but if they do drop back far enough they can get such a run on you that they'll just go right by you. So, whenever somebody would get too far back or I felt like they were purposely falling back to make a run, I was trying to run high and force them to make that ground back up through the corner, so that they weren't hauling butt once they got to me."
DID YOU REPORT THROTTLE PROBLEMS DURING THE RACE? "Actually, I didn't have full throttle for most of the race. But, yeah - believe me, I wasn't too happy about it. I was running behind Kevin and I couldn't even pull up on him. Michael (Waltrip) kept running up to me and running up to me and I'm thinking that my car just wasn't running like it was yesterday. Then, we had that pit stop and we took two and we got the lead. I was thinking, 'Alright, we'll be OK because there is always this little cushion - you can't really pull up to the bumper of the leader.' Michael kept pulling up and pulling up and I'm thinking, 'Man, what is wrong with my car. It just ain't running.' It was like 90 percent throttle, but that was enough to where I could tell a difference."
HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW BEING CALLED A FAVORITE TO WIN THE '500?' "Every time we did something, I got a little more worried because it's tough. Nobody has ever won it all, so I'm kind of like shocked or don't know what to think about it. But, I could stand to be the favorite for the championship. That would be nice. But, just being here all week and the microscope and the focus and all the things that are happening can be a heavy load sometimes, especially when the main reason you're here is to win the race that hasn't happened yet. It's really a tribute to a lot of different people and it's great to have the success we've had up to this point. We've got a lot to be proud of to be doing what we've done during Speedweeks. But, we know nothing equals up to that Daytona 500 victory."
WHY DOES BEING A CAR OWNER HOLD SUCH SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE FOR YOU? "I never thought I'd want to be a car owner after my driving career was finished. And, I still don't know if that is what I want to do or the direction I'm going to go. But, I wanted to have a team of my own that I could understand from Teresa's point of view or the people that are working within the team - their point of view - so I could kind of turn around and almost look back at myself in a way, and see what I'm doing wrong - not in the car in the Winston Cup Series, but outside the car - what I can do better with the team, communication, with my PR people, understand more about what the load is that everybody else is carrying. When you're just a driver, period, it's always, 'Woe is me. I've got all this (stuff) to do and I don't want to do it.' Well, now hopefully, being on this side of the fence I'll get a little understanding of the (stuff) everybody else has to go through to be on the ride, too."
ON THE SEASON AFTER DAYTONA, AND THE IDEA THAT THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE STARTS THEN "I'm well aware of that. We'd come out of here with a positive attitude. We'd go to Rockingham and by the end of that deal we'd be so fed up with each other. It sets the tone. It does, whether you want to realize it or admit or not. You create the atmosphere that you're going to be working in. Hopefully, we'll get in and out of Rockingham with good fortune and good luck, good runs and a good finish. We've got a great team. We came out of Talladega last year (eighth race) - we came out of there fifth in points. Only a third of the way through the season we were fifth in points. We have more to prove to ourselves than we do anybody. I want to see my fans rejoice in a championship season that we may have one day. But, what we have to prove to ourselves is monumental compared to what we have to prove to the press or anybody else.
"I think this is going to be a great year for us. I'm having a good time. We're winning races. This is almost like a little mini-series in itself. But, I've still got one part of my mind already focusing on the next week."
ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WINNING A RACE AT DAYTONA "It's huge for your career. I can guarantee you the Truck win yesterday for (Rick) Crawford was huge for him. If you have any idea of where anybody comes from or whatever their roots are, you know that when they get to Daytona that that is the race they want to win. We keep coming here year after year after year and you forget where you've been to get here. Whoever wins the race tomorrow will certainly have an interesting past and an interesting road that he traveled to get to the win of that race. If you want to sit down and judge one track from the other, a win at Daytona is bigger than any other."
YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO SWEEP THE EVENTS DOWN HERE TOMORROW, WHICH IS SOMETHING YOUR FATHER NEVER DID... "I'm a little nervous because nobody has ever done it, so it doesn't bode well for my chances tomorrow. But, we've got a good car and I'll just go in there with the most positive attitude I can have. I feel like we are one of maybe just a few teams that are favorites tomorrow. And, with the success that we've had up to this point this Speedweeks we've got to be the favorite. But, regardless of what happens, what we've done so far up to this point is a lot to be proud of. We've come in here and done a lot of things and made a lot of improvements over the last few years. We've always been strong on the plate tracks, but we had done more in Speedweeks than we had done previously. Our qualifying effort was 10 times better than it had been in the past. We've never really been good qualifiers here. And, I did win two races that I ran second in two years in a row, which was the Shootout and the 125."
DO YOU LIKE BEING THE GUY THAT EVERYONE IS POINTING AT? "I said yesterday that being the surprise is more fun. That's pretty much the way it has been all my life, is to come in and do things and you appreciate somebody saying, 'Man, it was awesome that you did that...didn't expect you to do that, ' or, 'you did a good job,' instead of, 'Alright man, we got what we thought we'd get. Let's move on.' That doesn't sound like as much fun. Being the favorite is good because it lets you know that you've reached a certain pinnacle or certain stage within the sport and within your career. I feel like I'm really coming into my own as a driver, as my own driver - being myself - being a driver's driver and a team's driver and crew chief's driver - being the guy that everybody would like to have as a teammate or like to have as a part of their team. Like I said, I would just much rather be called the favorite to win the championship later on this season. That would be better than anything."
WHAT DID YOU MEAN TO SAY ABOUT THE RCR DRIVERS? "I said that I didn't have a problem with any of them guys...I didn't intentionally want to take a stab at any one driver or any of the group of drivers. But, I wasn't in the best mood that day, either. But, that don't matter. I run my mouth a little too much. But, my point was that I feel like if me and Michael team up tomorrow, everybody else on the track will just be battling for third. I feel like me and Michael can really work together, especially with Michael - his car is really, really good. Our car is pretty good, but I feel like between the two, the daytime favors Michael's car and the nighttime favors my car. We always run better in the '400' and Michael always runs better in the '500.'
"I didn't upset Richard too much and that was really the only one I was really most worried about."