Daytona 500: 2nd, 3rd finishers press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Dale, you said during the race this place was a hole. How do you really feel about this place, especially after a finish like that? DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I mean, I was just joking about it being a hole. You...

Continued from part 1

Q: Dale, you said during the race this place was a hole. How do you really feel about this place, especially after a finish like that?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I mean, I was just joking about it being a hole. You know, y'all know how I feel about Daytona, it's a special place.

But the surface has some pretty big bumps. I like the grip. I like the lack of grip, whatever you want to call it. But coming through the tunnel, man, I mean, it's just hell trying to get through there, especially when you're two or three-wide.

You know, it's sort of like you need the loss of grip, but you don't need the bumps to go with it. They could patch this thing up a little bit in a couple spots. It wouldn't take long for them patches to get wore out. I know they're probably thinking about repaving it.

They should have repaved it several years ago. We'd have it all weathered and ready to go right now. It would be in good shape. But it will get there again one day. It wasn't paved -- hasn't been paved since 1978. It's due, I would say.

Q: Fun place for you still?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I had a hell of a time tonight. When you got a good car, one that will make some moves and don't wreck. I wrecked out of the last couple 500s. I figured, What do I have to do to finish one of these things and finish it good? I might have been a little too careful, you know.

Tonight I just let it all hang out. If there was a hole in the middle, I went there. Wherever it was. I just didn't really like being on the bottom. That seemed to be kind of hard to do.

But a lot of luck, too. I'm not complaining up here about running second. I'm pretty happy about it.

Q: Greg, could you talk about your feelings about the racing. Was it better racing because of the rules today?

GREG BIFFLE: You know, I mean, I think it was. I think that we felt like we could push and shove more. I think there was more of that today. You know, it's unfortunate that they're going to pave this racetrack because the grip level is about perfect. I mean, you know, the cars slide up the racetrack. You can't go around this thing wide open like you can Talladega and stay in line. You got to come off the gas a little bit, get back on the gas. It is rough from the bumps. It is tough on that.

But I think the rule package is good. The cars race around here really good. You know, it's going to be completely different when they pave it, you know. So the rules package will probably change again because the speed will be much, much higher.

Q: Did the pothole affect the outcome in any way? Do you think it might have changed what happened?

GREG BIFFLE: I don't think so. I mean, I know when I was hitting it, I hit that thing three laps in a row, then the caution came out. I was like, Damn, I got to quit hitting that thing. I know it's going to blow the right front tire out or screw the splitter up or something.

But like Junior said, he get down in there, you got the wheel in it, you're against a guy, you can't see it, you kind of know where it's at, you know, you run through it.

When I was leading, I never went through it. When I was back there, I went through it.

But I don't think it changed the outcome at all.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I don't think it changed the outcome at all. A couple guys got some holes in the front of their car. 17 had a big old hole in the front of his car. Changed the outcome of his day. As far as the finish, didn't have nothing to do with it.

Q: Dale, you seemed a little frustrated during your TV interview. Can you talk about your day as a whole, despite the outcome how you feel coming out of here.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I feel good about the finish. It's just frustrating coming that close. Hell, I don't have anything to be -- you know, when you're running 22nd, you're mad because you just want to get a top 10. When you get a top 10, you're pissed off because you can't get in the top five. Then when you're running second it gets you mad because you didn't get a win. That's how racecar drivers are, I hope.

We worked hard all week. I felt foolish about what happened to us in the 125. We beat the fenders off the car and had to drop back and punt. I just didn't like racing that way. We were able -- we ran pretty hard today, we had a car that got ill handling. We faded a bit. We worked on it. We had all kinds of messes going on there.

When it got cool, everybody's car gripped up. The outcome, I don't know. We worked hard. I'm pretty happy for my team. They needed a good finish.

Q: This is NASCAR's marquee event. There was a two-hour delay. Some fans left the racetrack. When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had their tire debacle in '08, attendance dropped. Are you concerned at all with NASCAR trying to reconnect with the fans that what happened today with the hole might impact attendance for Daytona 500 and just the sport in general?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't think it will have an effect on it at all. Track surfaces are going to have problems from time to time. Like I said, I mean, this wasn't a fault of NASCAR. It wasn't a fault of Daytona's or nobody's. It was probably more or less everybody's cars beating on the racetrack with trailing arm mounts and tail pipes. That's going to knock a hole in some asphalt, I don't care where you're at.

They'll patch it or whatever they'll do, and it won't have this problem again, I promise you that.

GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, it was unfortunate for the fans and the people watching on TV that we had to have that big delay. Certainly nobody wants to sit around and wait all the time.

But it was nobody's fault, I mean, that the racetrack came apart. It wasn't neglect or anything else. Like Junior said, it was the thing, our cars beating on the racetrack. It can only take so much.

Q: Dale, in Victory Lane, McMurray said he had the lead and all of a sudden he looks in his rearview mirror and he sees you, he said, Oh, no, not Earnhardt. Did you ever get the sense you were going to get him?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well I didn't have any more momentum when I went three-wide with Greg and I guess the 33 or somebody. But we kind of all stalled each other down the back straightaway a little bit anyways. I had them tires. I was thinking, Oh, well, maybe I can -- maybe I'll gain a little bit on him through three or four or off the exit. It didn't happen.

He had an awesome, unbelievable car in the Shootout. You know, this was basically the same -- he ran good today even in the sun, but this was exactly about the same time, at least the same conditions for the Shootout. His car, you know, was there for him at the end when he needed it. They were good all week. I knew that he was going to be a contender if he was there at the end.

But I didn't know where I was, you know, till I really kind of got done almost wrecking down the back straightaway. Then I looked up. There's just one car in front of me. Jamie's gonna win this damn race (laughter). I was happy for him. He deserves it. They've been through a lot. It's a great team.

Q: Greg, you mentioned being happy for Jamie, I'm sure some of that former teammate. Can you talk about he was a man without a team for a little bit, odd man out with Roush last year.

GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, we do stuff away from the racetrack quite a bit, Jamie and Christy and Matt and Katie. The three of us, you know, do different stuff. We go on ski trips, you know, out to dinner, do different things. I probably hang out with him more than any other driver.

So I was really excited. Plus I was his former teammate. Yeah, he didn't win any races last year. This is a big, big win for anybody's career. You got to be happy for anybody that ever wins this race. I was especially happy, the four guys, I was up there beating and banging with, you know, I would rather see Jamie win than those guys for being a teammate. Now I can get him to take me out to dinner and pay for it.

He was on an island, but we certainly didn't leave him to hang out to dry. He had all the information and all that, but we knew he was leaving at the end of the year.

Q: Dale, long off-season for you. Lots of talk and speculation about what happened last year. How important was this today for you to have a good run like that?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's just one race. We got a lot more racing to do. It's not your typical style track that we run on all year. If we can go to Fontana, Vegas, be competitive at any point during them races, it would be a little more validation.

Q: Dale, you benefited from this, but this three 'green-white-checkered' finishes, it kind of looks like one of those futuristic movies like Mad Max. Do you think this is a bit much, a little bit over the top?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't. I feel like, you know, the fans deserve probably more of a show, so that's what they got. They want to see, you know, the 'green-white-checkered' was put into play to give us an opportunity to finish the race under green. Finishing under yellow is, you know, quite a melodramatic moment compared to having the race finish under green. This gives us the opportunity to get it done if we don't get it done the first time.

When we go to tracks like Bristol or Martinsville, maybe it will be more appealing to you, or some other racetrack. Maybe it wasn't tonight. I think for the most part, I'd like to get it done and go home. But it worked out in my favor tonight. It might not do that every time. I kind of realized through the off-season, after the meetings and all the stuff, just getting some information myself, that we need to do whatever we can to get these fans excited, you know, get 'em pumped up about these races. I don't think you can ever go over the top really in that regard, because it's everybody in this room's livelihood that's at stake.

Q: A lot of us have seen kind of a renewed sense of confidence in yourself this season. You talked about how important it would be to get off to a great start. Even though this track doesn't translate till later in the year on a restrictor plate track, is the confidence back? Does this put more boost inside of you to head to California this week?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, yeah. I don't like going out west, but it's much easier to go there after you run good somewhere else. You know, I look forward to seeing how we are as a team.

Like I said, this is not a true gauge on what the changes are going to do to our team. The next couple racetracks will definitely give us a better understanding of where we are.

Q: This is the third straight year we've had a marquee owner have a car wind up in Victory Lane. Chip Ganassi is there, a guy who has won the Daytona 500 and the Indy 500. Any comments on that, seeing another good owner ending up in Victory Lane?

GREG BIFFLE: I think it's great for those team owners to end up with wins like that, trophies like that. I know Jack cherishes that win that Matt was able to get him last year.

The owner goes through the same thing as a driver. People come here for 15, 20 years without ever winning. You know, so it's just as special for those owners to win here. You know, like Junior said, that's a great organization. They've worked really, really hard.

It's not only the owner, but it's the crew chief, it's the team, it's the guys at the shop. It's that whole organization. It's such a morale booster for them all the way through.

It's a neat deal.

KERRY THARP: Dale and Greg, put on a great race for us tonight. Thank you.

-source: nascar

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Chip Ganassi