Atlanta: Second, third finishers press conference, part 1

An interview with: TONY STEWART DALE EARNHARDT, JR. THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by our third place finisher in today's Kobalt Tools 500. That is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He drives the No. 88 AMP Energy National Guard Chevrolet. I ...

An interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by our third place finisher in today's Kobalt Tools 500. That is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He drives the No. 88 AMP Energy National Guard Chevrolet. I believe he's sixth in the points right now. Off to a good start this season, Dale. Your thoughts about your race out there this afternoon.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, we started off awesome. The car was real fast. The tires, you know, have spring rates. We went softer and softer as the day went. That was the wrong thing to do. We had to keep adjusting on the car to tighten it up. The thing was just out of control after a few laps. I wasn't as bad as most of them, I don't reckon.

That was interesting today to be out there. I do say that. I'm glad that's over with.

THE MODERATOR: Let's take questions now for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Q: Dale, is the tire beyond drivable? Do you understand the predicament Goodyear is in or was it beyond drivable?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I'll say that Goodyear Tire Company makes good racing tires, they make a safe tire. You know, there's a lot of technology goes into making them tires and I give them a lot of credit. I mean, you know, it's a reputation risk just to be in this sport as a company like that. They can be the quarterback sometimes on Sunday as far as criticism goes.

But they do a good job. This was just a bad combination, this tire at this track. Just a poor combination. I know the tire we used to run would wear into the cords, but you could still run hard on it. It wasn't dangerous. You would run into the cords and run like that for 10 laps. That was a pretty good tire. Even though it was on a cord, you could still run it for a while, get to the next pit stop.

I'll tell you, I'm still seeing the center line in my tires, the mold line in my tire after 30 laps. So I went from running a tire that would wear to the cord to a tire that I still see the center cord after 30 laps. There's got to be several combinations in between that. I mean, Lord, that can't be the next step.

So great racing tire, it's safe and everything, but it's a poor choice for this track.

Q: We heard in your post race comments a few minutes ago before you came in here talking about it sounded like you and Tony weren't on the same page during the race. Y'all have been obviously together for a long time. Was it a communication breakdown? Did you want to do something that he didn't?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, you know, the tires have spring rates. You sort of figure what your game plan is as far as you want to go stiffer on the right front or let the right front fall out from under it as the race goes. They don't make a tire that's exactly the same as every other tire, so you can't have the same exact set every set. They're going to change some.

So what the crew chiefs do is they put them in a sequence which they'll go a certain way until the driver complains, then they make them flip it around. But it's got to go one way or the other. We went the wrong way at the start of the race.

I just made it really hard on him. You know, just in his ear all the time about trying to get on his A game, help me out, help me out, because the car was just out of control. And you just don't like driving cars like that.

But he's my cousin. He's tough. That's why I guess more than anything, besides his talent, I guess that's why I got him, because he's the only one that would put up with me.

THE MODERATOR: Let's hear from Tony Stewart. He was second in today's race. He drives the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. Tony, your thoughts about how you ran out there today.

TONY STEWART: I'm really excited that I didn't crash. That was half the battle in itself. Been racing 28 years and been a part of a lot of different professional series and never seen a quality of racing tire like I've seen this weekend. It's a little bit like I caught Dale saying. I mean, you know, there's got to be something in between. And if Goodyear thinks that was their best effort today, I'm really disappointed because, you know, these teams spent so much money to come here and the competition is so close.

You know, to tell us a week before we come to Atlanta that all of a sudden we're going to have a new tire and give us the data a week before and expect everybody to figure it out in a week is pretty disappointing.

But, you know, I guess I can't say it's surprising because, I mean, they got run out of Formula One, they got run out of CART, the IRL, they got run out of World Outlaw Sprint cars, they got run out of USAC divisions because they couldn't keep up and make a quality enough product.

You know, this weekend shows their true colors and what they're about. You know, they've done some great things over the years. But, you know, as technology has gone on and as the technology of these cars has gone on, they can't keep up. That's what puts us in positions like we were in this weekend as drivers and teams. It makes for a miserable day out there.

Like Dale said, it's so hard. It's hard enough just to get the balance of your car from stop to stop making the changes, but then when you put tires on and don't know what they're going to do when you put them on, it makes it that much more disappointing. You know, it makes also days like today, when you get lucky enough to finish, you know, second and have your teammate win, it makes days like that great.

But, man, I mean, if the rest of the year, if that's what we got to look forward to, is weekends like this, there will be a lot of drivers going into retirement a lot earlier because nobody's going to want to keep doing this like this.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions for both of these competitors.

Q: A situation where you have to race on a tire that's not raceable, will NASCAR pay attention, will Goodyear pay attention? Are you stuck with what you got?

TONY STEWART: There's drivers that get picked to do tire tests throughout the year and they pick a team from each manufacturer to go. We did the tire test for Las Vegas. About all that we can do as drivers is just do what we're supposed to do when we get there, and that's give them input from set to set on what the car felt like. They don't tell us necessarily before they put the set of tires on what's different about it. It's our job to give them feedback of what was different from that set from their baseline set.

But just like Vegas last year, we all tested one tire. They panicked, brought a harder tire. It was a disaster for everybody. It prompted this last minute decision by them.

It's not up to us. It's up to Goodyear. The bad thing is they've got an exclusive deal. They have no reason to have to push and make their product better because they have no competition.

So I don't know what it's going to take to get them to give us a quality tire that this series and NASCAR deserves. But they obviously aren't capable of doing it right now.

Q: Junior, is it time for Mike Helton and Brian France and somebody to go to Goodyear and say, We got to do better than this? Is it to that point? You can bitch all you want to, but nothing seems to change. Is it time for NASCAR to step into this and do something?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: There's a big difference between complaining and stating the obvious. You know, it is what it is. It's not a complaint. It is what it is.

So I'm sure that Mike Helton or France, I'm sure they'll say what their opinion is. They probably wouldn't like this any more than the drivers did. I don't think for one the race was all that exciting. We couldn't run side by side. We'd wreck, you know. We had to let each other go by. Every time you got beside a guy, you were just like, Take it. I can't go in the corner side by side. No one else out there really could either.

But, you know, they said they'd give us the data earlier in the year, around Daytona or before. But no amount of time would have prepared you for that. You weren't going to hook that tire up. It was way too hard.

Q: Tony, you made reference in your radio interview that Goodyear doesn't have enough people. Do you feel like that would help solve the problem, if they upped their investment? Two, if you could both answer, is the new car perhaps causing some of this problem with them not being able to get a handle on the tire?

TONY STEWART: I mean, there's a possibility the new car's part of it. But still, I mean, it's not like Goodyear's just started building tires two or three years ago and they don't have an idea of what to do. I mean, they've been in this sport a long time. And if you haven't figured it out by now, you probably don't have the right group of guys figuring it out.

I wasn't saying that they don't have enough people. I don't know if they have enough quality people because the guys they've got obviously aren't getting it done right now. I mean, you know, this week's proof of it. It's like Junior said. The reason we're talking about it and the reason that we're bringing it to everybody's attention is because we don't want to have to race on tires like we raced on today every week. This wasn't fun today. There wasn't anything about today's race that was fun I don't think for anybody.

I mean, do something about this, make it better. It wasn't like we ran three or four green flag lap runs. We had one green flag pit stop in that whole deal. That's just how bad the field was. If your car was a little off, it was way off. I mean, you didn't have a choice. It wasn't like you could make the difference as a driver. All you could do is hold on and try to find a spot that was a little better on the track. But you couldn't go there and race guys. Like Junior said, if somebody got to you, got on the outside of you, you didn't have a choice of whether you wanted to let them go. You had to. It was either that or you were putting yourself in jeopardy of wrecking your race car. There were a lot of times you were by yourself you were putting yourself in jeopardy of wrecking your racecar.

It's not that we're just trying to beat 'em up. We want I don't know how else you plead with them or get their attention enough to bring something that's better than what it is. I mean, this isn't the first time that they've been to Atlanta Motor Speedway.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I guess the big thing is, is don't do this as Darlington. That's the main thing. I think the COT is part of it. They're putting a lot of load on the right front tire with the bump stop. Puts a lot of load on the tires. So Goodyear thinks the tire is going to wear out worse, they're going to have more right front tire failures. Every time they have a tire failure, they think of it as their product is getting lambasted on national television, that it's bad news for them when the consumer sees it.

But everybody knows that watches the race, you know, there's a reason for a tire blowing. It's not 'cause it's a bad tire. We've never had a tire blow because it was defective. I mean, you know, they wear out and you wear them down to the air. But you just need to slow down if you're wearing tires out that bad.

But don't do this to us at Darlington 'cause that yeah, that will definitely be that might be able to top how horrible today was or how frustrating it was to run today if this is the case.

Continued in part 2

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Mike Helton