DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "I really don't know why we run so well here. There's a lot of tracks like this that we don't run the same at. We just really run good here. Tony Jr. (Eury, crew chief) and the guys...
DALE EARNHARDT Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"I really don't know why we run so well here. There's a lot of tracks like this that we don't run the same at. We just really run good here. Tony Jr. (Eury, crew chief) and the guys have a good setup here. They've had one since the word go. We didn't change nothing all day long. That tells you it's just a good race car. I could adjust my driving line and style to each set of tires. I didn't have to do a whole lot. I'd point and shoot and that thing ran. That's about all there was to it.
"I thought so (win a race in rookie season). I think we're going to see a couple of rookies get into victory lane this year. I didn't know how quickly it would come. I'm kind of overwhelmed with what happened today. It's just crazy man. I never would have thought... We came here and practiced for qualifying, and I didn't get my hopes up because we had done the same thing everywhere else. We qualified really good and we run decent in the races but we struggle on long run setups. After 40 or 50 laps, our cars seem to go away at every race we've been to up until now. We worked on that yesterday in that practice we got. I think lack of practice and the lack of a Happy Hour helped us out because our car was good right off the trailer. A lot of guys would probably have been better today if they'd had a chance to practice in Happy Hour yesterday. That went our way. The cautions we had today didn't really help us much. Like I said, we didn't really change nothing on our car. It was haul butt from the first lap, and every time we had a caution they got to adjust more and more on their cars and get closer to closer to how we were running. I knew we had a good car, but I thought the 6 and 99 and 18, the typical guys who run up front would be a little bit faster than us, but I'd run 'em down and pass 'em. I wondered what they were doing, if they were just riding around. We'd drive away from 'em. I could not believe our car was that good, but it was.
"He (father Dale Earnhardt) just told me he loved me (in victory lane) and he wanted to make sure I took the time to enjoy this and relax a little bit with what we accomplished today. You can get so swept up with what's going on around you that you really don't enjoy it yourself personally, so he just wanted me to take a minute and do this and celebrate how I wanted to celebrate. That was pretty smart on his part to be thinking about that at that particular time. He was pretty happy. He's the car owner, and it's a product of his. He's proud of his son, too, but that product of his, he put this team together and it goes out and wins a race. No matter who's driving he's happy about that.
"We started fourth and the car was pretty good. I think we got up to the lead and then they had a caution when the 32 car spun. The car was good. I was still at that time, thinking the 88 or 6 or somebody would come hauling up through there and be the guy to beat, but we pitted for tires a couple of times and we stuck with a four-tire pit stop routine all day long even though guys were taking two tires after two or three laps of a green-flag run. We stuck with four tires because we didn't want to upset the handling of the car. That was the smartest thing we did all day long. We stuck with that. Any time we changed tires, it was four tires. We didn't have to worry about the car being loose or tight and having to adjust for it. It was good. We just kind of worked our way, anytime they'd beat us out of the pits by taking two tires, we'd come out 10th or eighth, we'd get nervous about that on the restarts having all those lapped cars up there, wondering what was going to happen, if anybody makes a mistake. One time I was on the outside leading on a restart and the 6 car kind of ran behind me and got me a little nervous. I thought that was as close we came to wrecking. Most of the time we had good restarts. We had no problem picking our way up through the guys or lapped cars or whatever to get back into a calm situation again. Several times on restarts we were mired back in eighth or 10th spot. I was really freaking out there before the green flag, wondering what was going to happen. Things do happen. I just wanted to get back up there where I felt like we belonged. It happened a few times. It was kind of exciting to drive up through the field like that, but on the other hand, we didn't know what to expect and it makes you pretty nervous. Nothing really sticks out as anything going on in the race or happening in the race. It was fun racing Bobby Labonte and to run like we did in front of him because I admire him a lot about how he carries himself around the garage area and stuff. He's a really cool guy, real quiet, and he doesn't ruffle anybody's feathers. After the last three weeks, it was fun go get out front and show these guys I could use my head and make smart decisions. Even when I've got a real fast car and I'm not up front, I can be patient and pick my way through there. It was fun to prove that to them and prove my status as far as a driver goes.
"The first two or three or four sets of tires, the car was about a second or third-place car. Then we beat everybody out of the pits and they dropped the green and that thing was crazy fast. It was as easy as pie to drive. We got a four or five-second lead there and I said, 'man, this thing is awesome.' I was thinking it was weather or the track coming to us or something. Then we got three or four sets of tires after that and the car was three or four tenths slower. Still, we were a second or third place car. I had to be up front to take full advantage of the way our car was handling. If we were behind the 18 or 99, the car was tight and I'm still learning what to do in that situation. I'd move up high sometimes in clean air and pass some guys.
"With about 40 laps to go, right before I pitted, Tony Jr. said, 'this one here is for all the marbles.' He didn't know exactly how much truth to that saying there was. If we had come out behind the 18 even with that good of a car, I don't know if I would have been able to get by him.
"He knows all about this stuff. He knows what I'm thinking and he knows what the team is thinking. He knows what's going to happen next week. He knows two months down the road what the feeling is going to be about this win. He was better prepared for it. He showed some emotion, but he's pretty smart about it. He didn't get real wired up about it because he knows just as easily we could have three more bad weekends. We just need to do this more often and improve our point standings to where I think we need to be. There's a lot of tracks I think we can accomplish good things at.
"I didn't know what to think. We went to Atlanta and every time you find a part failure on a car, you still speculate why it happened and how it happened. We'll never know if I just got loose at Atlanta and smacked the wall or if there was actually brake fluid on the tire. We'll never know that. The next week we stripped an axle, but how long had it been stripped? Did it just do that when I wrecked or had I been driving the car like crap all day long? We went to Bristol, and I didn't know if that was in my hands or out of my hands. You put yourself in position to win. You put yourself in position to lose. You put yourself in position to wreck. Even though it's not your fault, if you qualify bad and get back in a mess, you're going to get in a wreck that happens even though it's not your fault. You're still going to be in it. I felt like I still had control and could have made a difference the past three weeks. You can beat yourself up only so much before you take a lot of confidence away from yourself. I talked to my buddy Hank Parker Jr. I talked to people who have had more adversity than me to hear what they say about it and how they got over it. Hank has been through some crap in his racing career like me. There was a time he thought he was never going to drive again, but talking to him or somebody like that, makes you chill out and get ready to go again.
"The best thing that probably happened to me was when Gary Nelson sat down with me this weekend and he told me some things that nobody else had said to me before. Even though a lot of good things have happened to me in my career, I sometimes need to be told that I'm a good race car driver. Just like being in a marriage. Even though your wife knows you love her, you've still got to tell her sometimes. That was kind of the situation I was in. It was like it'd be nice to get patted on the back sometimes even though we had a bad weekend. Gary Nelson sat down with me and told me he knew I was going to be able to make it and be a good race car driver that I just needed to calm down. It was good to hear. I haven't heard that from anybody else. When we crash out of a race or something, I go to the house and the phone don't ring. You sit there and wonder if anybody gives a (expletive). Race car drivers are choked in and out of series. It's kind of hard sometimes. To hear it from somebody like Gary Nelson, who can't play favorites and to have nothing to gain by telling me that I'm going to make it, that sounds pretty good to me.
"You never really do know if you're going to win, ever. Guys race and race for years and years and don't ever know. You pretty much know if you go to enough races whether you're going to win one sooner or later. There's different kinds of pressures and different kinds of relief. There's different enjoyment. When we made the race at Charlotte, it was a success for us. It was a pat on the back for us, but not even close to this. This here is awesome. It's incredible.
"I really didn't know what to expect (in rookie season). I didn't know if we were going to be kicking butt right out of the box or whether we were going to be crappy for a year or two. I felt like we could win a race. The odds were not really stacked against us. Steve (Park) had run well at a few places, and if we could mirror their team, we could still have a pretty decent race team. They made a lot of changes to improve their team. We put both cars up front this week. We use a lot of the same things. I knew having him as a teammate was going to help us."
TONY EURY Jr. (Crew chief No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo)
"We made a couple of personnel changes over the winter from the Busch Series to the Cup Series. We've been doing 14s and 15s (second pit stops) all year, but today it kind of stood out because we were in the position we were in. These guys have been working hard the last couple of weeks. It's just a tribute to them that they can work as hard as they can and still come out here and do 14 and 15-second stops."