DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 3rd "This is a typical run for us. I'm real proud of my guys. It was just a great effort with the pit crew and the car they brought this weekend. It was a lot of hard work.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 3rd
"This is a typical run for us. I'm real proud of my guys. It was just a great effort with the pit crew and the car they brought this weekend. It was a lot of hard work. I'm just trying to do the best job I can. They gave me some great cars already this year and I'm glad we could get a good run."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOU TO GET A GOOD RUN AT ATLANTA TODAY? "You just like to run good everywhere you go. But I like this place. It's one of my favorite tracks. So when I don't run good here, I get a little more frustrated than normal, but they got it handling good, man. I could make some passes, which was great. I was just real proud of everybody's effort." (see post-race transcript)
JOE NEMECHEK, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS:
Note: NEMECHEK EXTENDS FINISHING STREAK
Joe Nemechek extended his streak of running at the finish to 36 consecutive races and one year. It's the longest active streak for finishing a race in the Nextel Cup Series. The last time Nemechek didn't finish a race was here at Atlanta Motor Speedway last March due to a punctured radiator.
"I really haven't given the streak a lot of thought," said Nemechek. "But I think it says something about the way this Army team goes about its business. We never quit and have a lot of talented people working on the team. We're very competitive, hang in there, take care of whatever needs to get fixed on the car and always try to run a smart race."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY'S RACE? "We should have been better - Atlanta is a good track for us and we were aiming for a top 10 or better. The car started off tight, which was weird because it was never that way during our practices. We did have some good green flag runs, but lapped traffic hurt us today. A couple of times I was trying to pass and I made contact with either the car or the wall. We had some damage to the car and that didn't help our cause."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 4th
LOOKING AT YOUR RIGHT FRONT TIRE, WERE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR TIRES TODAY? "I don't think I could have made it another lap. I know I would have lost two positions if we ran another lap. But the DuPont Chevy team did a great job today. We were back and forth and back and forth. There were times when we had the best car and there were times when we had a 15th place car. We had great pit stops and call making by Steve Letarte and the guys in the pits. We got some track position there at the end. We just weren't very good on new tires. We just lost way too many positions there on that last restart and we were playing catch up the whole time. Really, I'm just proud of this whole team. We got another top five -- back to back top fives on the l.5-mile and I'm proud of that."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 5th
"It's been a while since we had a top five in Atlanta. I'm just happy -- especially since Home Depot is based down here in Atlanta. We just fought all day. We didn't have a very good car at the beginning. Zippy and those guys just kept working on it and we got a top five out of it. So it was definitely a pleasing day."
THAT'S WHAT CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS ARE MADE OF, ISN'T IT? "I told Zippy, that's how we got there last year was with days like today. That's how we won a championship last year. The good thing is that these will leave the track today excited about the performance about how we ran today. They won't be excited about how where we finished, obviously, but we'll look past that and see the big picture. Last year when we were here at this time, we were in bad shape when we left and we had a lot of work to do. So I think we showed today that we're right on top of our game again coming into the season. We don't normally run this strong early in the year, so I'm really excited about where we're at right now."
WAS TODAY ALL ABOUT BEING PATIENT? "We were just working on the balance all day. I don't think we ever got it happy, but we got it good enough to get us in the top five. With (Matt) Kenseth having a problem and Robby (Gordon) having a problem, it got us into the top five there. But we had a top 10-car for sure. But we just got some breaks there today that went our way there at the end it looked like and got ourselves in the top five."
ON THE TIRES: "To be honest, I don't know if it's just Zippy or what, but our team has never had tire problems. We cut down two at Pocono last year, but historically we are not a team that has trouble. I wasn't concerned about it. Zippy just kept me abreast there of how bad they were wearing just so we knew early in the day. But once we got through about the second or third pit stop we never even talked about it anymore. We knew we were in good shape.
WAS IT GOOD TO FINALLY FINISH A STRONG RUN WITH A STRONG FINISH? "Yeah, we didn't have a top 10 car by any means, but we ended up with a decent run. Anytime you can end up with a top five here at Atlanta, that's a pretty good day."
DO YOU FEEL THE TEAM IS STRONGER AT THIS TIME THIS YEAR THAN AT THE SAME TIME LAST YEAR? "We're definitely starting off the year better than we did last year. So if we can do like we did last year, at Bristol we'll be all right.
ROBBY GORDON, NO. 7 HARRAH'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 28th
IS THIS ONE OF THE BEST RUNS YOU'VE HAD ON A TRACK LIKE THIS? "No, we should have won this race two years ago, but the brakes failed. I've got the worst luck in the world. We came down pit lane and the caution comes out and we lose a lap. We drive ourselves all the way back up to fourth again. And they said we were speeding in pit lane. But even so, Matt Kenseth finished 13th. So we gave up 13 spots or something. I don't know. The other cars make in on fuel, but we can't. We weren't going to make it on fuel mileage and we had to stop."
YOU WERE RUNNING THIRD AND MADE A PIT STOP. WAS THERE A VIBRATION? "No, there was no vibration. We were going to run out of fuel. We weren't going to make it to the end. Everybody else made it."
YOU STILL HAVE TO BE PLEASED THAT YOU WERE RUNNING THIRD AND HAD A SHOT AT WINNING THIS THING "It still doesn't matter. At the end of the day, it still shows us with a 28th place finish. Now we're 19th in points, and that sucks."
YOU GOT A LOT OF TV. THEY TALKED ABOUT YOU ALL DAY "Thanks. We've worked really hard. I can say one thing, there is nobody in this garage that has worked harder than we have to get competitive. For a one-car team to be able to run with these guys, I'm proud of my guys and proud of what we're doing. I'm just disappointed with the result we got today."
YOU DROVE LIKE CRAZY TODAY. WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT TIRES AT ALL TODAY? "No, if anything, it was going to be a front. It wasn't going to be a rear. We kept loosening the car up. We got it to where it was drivable. It was real good on the long runs. Dang, just 28th place. I can't believe that."
DID YOU HAVE SOMETHING FOR THAT NO. 9 CAR? "Yeah, I think we did. I was cruising when we were running third. Maybe I should have backed off and just rode around a little bit. But we were going to miss it by two laps on fuel."
WILL YOU TAKE THIS CAR TO TEXAS? "Yeah, this will definitely be our Texas car. It'll be good for us."
OVERALL, YOU HAD A GOOD DAY "Obviously I'm disappointed and the guys are disappointed. It's sad. But they've done an awesome job of getting us competitive this year. To run that many laps and have a 28th place finish just blows me away. It shows just how competitive NASCAR racing is."
Note: JOHN SLUSHER, CATCH CAN / TRAINER, NO. 7 HARRAH'S MONTE CARLO DRIVEN BY ROBBY GORDON was hit on pit road by the No. 41 Dodge driven by Reed Sorenson on lap 193. He was taken to the local hospital for possible back and neck injury, but was checked and released.