Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo "It was a good race. But while you're sitting there leading, you think of all the ways you're going to get beat. But nothing ever happened, so I feel real lucky." ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE...
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo
"It was a good race. But while you're sitting there leading, you think of all the ways you're going to get beat. But nothing ever happened, so I feel real lucky."
ANY PROBLEMS WITH THE BURNS?
"Just getting the beer in them - there was a lot of beer sprayed on my pants that soaked through. It's gotten to the point where I have a big open spot on the top of my thigh. Sometimes when I slap my leg while laughing at a joke or something I'll hit it. So I guess it isn't bothering me so much. One thing my doctors were worried about was that I wasn't using my leg and then it starts to cramp up in the race car. It started cramping up a little bit when I first started getting back in the car. You just keep trying to keep fluid down there because it keeps pushing fluid out of the wounds. You've got to drink water all the time. You can get dehydrated easily."
WHAT MADE A DIFFERENCE THIS WEEKEND AT BRISTOL FOR YOU?
"For me, the difference was that I had a good car tonight and I could do the job. My car was really quick through the center. I was able to stay on the bottom. I was able to cut a lot of time on everybody that I needed to catch by beating them through the middle of the corner. We basically ran really close to the same set-up we ran earlier this year. We had the same car. We made a few adjustments to make it turn better and one adjustment to give it some more forward bite. That's really all we did."
ON HIS MINDSET TO WIN BRISTOL
"I was sitting there with 100 (laps) to go and I was thinking man, I hate this place. But it's a love/hate relationship. You come here as a child and it puts you in awe and you want to win here so bad. It's like a lot of tracks with a lot of history like Charlotte and some other places that deal you some nasty blows. They'll dangle it right in front of you and then deal you a nasty blow and make you wait it out. I'm just really glad I won tonight. This is like the Daytona 500 and Charlotte and Atlanta. These are the historic tracks that have been around for years and have been on my list of places to win."
DIDN'T YOU GET IN SOME TROUBLE AT THIS RACE IN THE SPRING?
"I was mouthing off on the radio. I know NASCAR scans a lot of the drivers and it was very unprofessional. I was blowing off some steam and it took 40 laps to do it."
YOU JUST OUTRAN THE COMPETITION TONIGHT
"It was like that last night. You just can't go to the track with a new line to run. My car was really identical as last night's car (Busch race). I knew I could run the Cup car the same as the Busch car but I told Tony (Eury) this morning that I'm not sure you'd want to. I'd give up a lot of speed on the exit of the corner by driving in the center so hard. You'd almost have to stop and turn again to get off the corner. I don't know that you'd want to do that in a Cup car. I started doing it and I got a little ahead of myself and let Rusty go. But then I got back in the groove and passed Rusty back three or four times. I did it with the No. 48. I got out front and I got loose driving foolish out of my pace.
"My daddy and I were practicing for the race one weekend when I was a rookie. I was all over the place and wasn't running real good. And he got on the radio and told me he was going to tell me where to lift and where to get on the gas. You lift at the flagstand but you don't use any brakes so you're not really losing a lot of speed by the time that you get there..... you've just got to keep repeating it. I beat myself up about lifting early all night long and try to get through the center of the corner and pick the gas up before anybody else. And it's really hard. You've got guys around you that are going in deeper than you but you're driving right back by in the center of the corner. The other good thing about that is that you don't beat your tires up driving deep in the corner and beating the right front."
AT INDY, YOU SAID YOU WERE NOT A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM. DOES THIS WIN CHANGE THAT?
"We can win the championship. But when I said championship team, I'm taking about the guys who are a factor in the win every week. We've got tracks that we run good at. We've got to keep testing. We're not as good as I want to be, but I don't know if that will ever happen. We just have to keep working and do what we can. This race and this win does boost your confidence. It's definitely a shot in the arm for the team and we need it."
"It's been kind of tough. You can't hide from it. You're reminded by the media of your performance and how bad it is. You can't run and hide from it. It makes it tough on the team. But when we win like this, it makes it more special. When we do have slumps, winning at places like the Daytona 500 and like this, Bristol, it makes it so much more special. It's a bigger relief than just having an average consistent race team every week. I'd rather be more consistent every week, but man when you run like crap a big win like this is pretty meaningful."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE RULE ABOUT LEAVING YOUR FEELINGS OUTSIDE OF THE GATE WHEN YOU WALK INTO YOUR SHOP
"I thought everybody knew what that means. Tony Jr. and Tony Sr. and me - all the original guys who were working there before DEI was even named - have always said to leave your feelings at the gate. You've got to be tough as nails when you come in there. You've got to have thick skin. It's a tough crowd. It's a good group of people. Everybody seems to be really motivated - even when we don't run good and even when I open my mouth when I shouldn't with the media or in the press box and say things I shouldn't say or realize the impact it will have. But you've got to be strong when you're working there - especially when you're working on the No. 8 car with Tony Sr. He treats his friends and total strangers alike. When it comes to business and racing, he's the same."
DO YOU THINK IN A BACKWARD SORT OF WAY THAT GETTING BURNED MIGHT BE GOOD FOR YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP RUN?
"Never. I'd never want to deal with that ever again. I don't think it helped me in any way. We didn't run good. We had to get a couple of relief drivers. I should have been healthy and never been hurt. I should have been able to run races even if we failed, we failed together. I felt like I let them down a little bit. But again, I don't put any responsibility on anybody's shoulders for me getting burned. I made that decision to do that and I'd do it again. I wouldn't change things. I found out some people and my family meant a lot more to me. My mama took care of me for three or four weeks. I was complaining and cussing her. She just chugged it out. It was awesome. She hadn't done anything like that for a long time because she lived in Virginia for 20 years and I saw her once a year. She moved down here and I see her and I take care of her and she works for me and all, but we just never had really been that close in 20 years. I wouldn't trade that."
CAN YOU HANDICAP THE FIELD FOR THE CHASE AND HOW DO YOU RANK IN THE FINAL 10?
"I'd like to think I was number one. Jimmie is strong. Jeff is strong. Those to cats right there are tough. I think Tony's got a chance of winning. I hope I'm right up there. I don't want to say I rank behind any body. That's wouldn't be right. But it's pretty much anybody's championship. The guy in 10th might have to work harder, but it can be done."
DID YOUR DAD TEACH YOU THAT WINNING AT BRISTOL IS TO BE VERY SMOOTH? IS THAT THE ULTIMATE SECRET IN A WAY?
"Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. He was telling me that. He was telling me to lift now, and that was way back. The corner is way down there. And I'd lift. And then he'd tell me to get on the gas now and I'd think it was way too soon. I started to figure out why he wanted me to lift so early and it was because he wanted me to get on the gas soon. I was driving into the corner until I couldn't drive in there no more and then going the other way. It was just not as fast. It took me a while to figure it out. You have to have a good car too. It made it easier on me to just run that same line. I knew that it was faster than the guy behind me."
DO YOU SEE OTHER PEOPLE DOING THAT, OR WAS THAT YOUR DAD'S LITTLE SECRET?
"Yeah, I see other guys driving through there like that - especially later in the race. They talked about it last night on a couple of radios. There is a little bit of black tar or paint before you actually get to the asphalt apron. There is a little bit of banking that's maybe eight inches wide. If you get the left front tire perfectly on that, it hooks so much better than that concrete. I was just going in the corner slow enough that I never let the left front tire slide off of it. It was hooking."
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO SEE 160,000 FANS WEARING RED?
"It means a lot to me. It's close to home. It means a lot to me that the Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans enjoy what I do. I'm glad that I can do something out on the race track and make somebody's day. Do you know what I mean? That's really a good feeling that you know you've made a lot of people happy."