Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the Daytona 500...five of the top six finishers were Chevrolets. DALE EARHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO YOU'VE GOT TO RACE IN THE BUSCH RACE TOMORROW, YOU KNOW "Yeah, it's going to be hard to do that,...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins the Daytona 500...five of the top six finishers were Chevrolets.
DALE EARHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
YOU'VE GOT TO RACE IN THE BUSCH RACE TOMORROW, YOU KNOW "Yeah, it's going to be hard to do that, huh? I'm a Daytona 500 champion. I can't believe it. I'm just amazed. It's just awesome. I can't believe I passed him (Tony Stewart) by myself. I was trying for a while. I got a run on him and it happened somehow, I don't know. You don't know what you're doing at that point, you're just trying your heart out. I had a great car built by Tony (Eury) Sr. and all those guys. I can't believe it. This is just the greatest ever."
YOU SAID IT WAS HARDER TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 THAN THE NEXTEL CUP CHAMPIONSHIP "Yeah, I don't have to worry about that no more. It's just a hard race to win. It's a season in itself, that entire race. There's just so much going on and so much running through your mind. I've seen it be lost so many times by my dad over and over. I was taught so many lessons about this place by whoever got behind the wheel. Now I don't have to worry about it anymore."
YOU ARE ONLY THE THIRD FATHER-SON COMBINATION TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR FATHER WON IT SIX YEARS AGO TODAY "He was over in the passenger side riding with me. I'm sure he was having a blast.
"Believe it or not I'm real surprised the Goodyear tire was good all day. I didn't expect our car to handle them so well. The car drove awesome all day. I was real loose there at the end, but it had to be that way to be able to run good on old tires. Tony (Stewart) had a good car. We've been good friends and we helped each other all day. And by the way, I'm glad Michael Waltrip is okay. That was a scary looking accident. I've got a full week ahead of me and it's real exciting."
YOU'RE LEADING THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS "Yeah, for the first time in my life. That's awesome."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"It's been a good couple of weeks for us in the GM Goodwrench car. We just came up a little bit short on all ends of the stick - the Shootout and the 125's. It's a good way to start off the season. I just wish the racing was a little bit better for the fans. But NASCAR will fix it and come back strong. We'll come and do whatever they want us to do but I was just bored. My foot hurts from riding in line. Once we lost the pack and made a mistake getting on to pit road, we just never got back up there. Our car was capable of winning, we just didn't put ourselves in the right spot.
"Three-quarters of the race was pretty boring, if you ask me. But it is what it is and we'll do whatever they ask us to do.
"It was one of those deals where everybody got spread out. We just stayed in line and did all we could do. All in all, it's been a good couple of weeks for the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet. It's a good way to come into the season because we've been on both sides. Coming out of here with a good finish is the way to go."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"There just wasn't much you could do sitting there in a three or four-car draft - a single-file draft. When things really shuffled around the pit stop sequence that took place, we got into single file racing and heck, we were just sitting there riding in line hoping that we could catch the lead draft. But those guys were a lot faster with fewer cars up front. We didn't stand a chance of catching them."
IF YOU COULD HAVE CAUGHT THE LEADERS, COULD YOU HAVE COMPETED WITH THEM? HOW WAS YOUR CAR? "Yeah, we had a great car. We led some and worked our way through the pack a couple of times. My hat's off to this whole Lowe's team. This is a great start to the season for us to come out of here with a top five. We'll go on to the next one and have some more fun.
"Everybody wants to race for the win. We sat there in a larger group behind the front group and we just couldn't catch them. We were pretty frustrated with that. We thought when we had six and they had three or four, we'd be able to reel them in but we just couldn't catch them. We waved at each other to stay in line. We just sat there in line and just rode for 100 laps. A top five is a great way to come out of here. We want to win the championship and that's a good start to it.
"Staying in the to five is the key to the points. Regardless of the structure - the current one or the one we've always had in the past - you need to be consistent. If we would have been racing for the win and wrecked and finished 42nd, that would have been a terrible start to the '04 season. So, we'll take it. We're a little bummed that we were in the top five but we were so far away that we couldn't even see the checkered flag fall on the leader. I wish we were closer."
WHAT WAS THE RACING LIKE OUT THERE TODAY? "Before the track got slick, it was real similar to what we've had in the past with side-by-side racing. But once the track heated up and the tires started sliding around, it got real slick. It just really fell into single car racing. Yet you just really had to watch your moves and opt not to pass sometimes because it would slow your whole lane down and you'd lose further touch with the lead group. It took a lot of patience. But still, our patience didn't pan out because we still couldn't catch the group."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"We had a pretty good race. I think that getting a top ten based on the way our week went was a pretty good finish. That pit stall we had slowed the momentum down coming off pit road and we had people drafting with us but then he got a penalty. The day was perfect up until the very last stop and the last set of tires. We'll be happy to take an eighth place finish".
WAS THE RACING DULL AND BORING? "I could have told you it was going to be like that because of the tires. The aero package we have iis pretty good. I think the spoiler is a little bit big in the rear and it makes the car push and then the tires fall of".
HOW IS THAT FOR FANS TO WATCH?
"From a drivers' standpoint I like it better. I like to be able to drive the car to make maneuvers out there that I wouldn't normally be able to make. But from an entertainment standpoint I don't know if it was exciting. At Daytona it normally comes down to a handful of cars and it's not always the best restrictor plate race. The nighttime races are better and Talladega puts on a really good restrictor-plate show".
WARD BURTON, NO. 0 NETZERO CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "Our car was fast. We had a problem on a pit stop and left a lug not off, which cost us a lap. But, those last couple of runs were the best I was all day. We worked on the car all day and all our changes paid off by the end. We just couldn't make up that lap. We got lucky getting through that big wreck, so we'll take 17th and go from here."
JOE NEMECHEK, NO. 01 CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
THERE WAS PLENTY OF ELECTRICITY WITH THE PRESIDENT BEING HERE, WHAT DID HE SAY TO YOU? "I pointed to my chest and said Army to President Bush. I then shook his hand, gave him my coin and told him that I am proud to represent you. He said, 'I'm proud to have you representing us.' He is the first president I've ever met up close. That was very cool."
ON HIS 6TH PLACE CAREER BEST DAYTONA 500 FINISH "Not a bad run at all for the 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet. I am really proud of this team. We've been fast since we've been here. I might have made a couple of bad moves that got us out of the lead draft, but coming back sixth...we'll take it. A great way to start the season."
HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO THE BIG ONE? "I was two cars behind it. I saw it happening and dove to the inside. I don't know how in the world it didn't get me. Someone shot across my hood, but never touched me. I couldn't believe it. I told the guys luck is on our side today."
YOU'VE BEEN STRONG SINCE JANUARY TESTING? "Everybody has been calm, we get along great and know each other well. Ryan (crew chief Ryan Pemberton) and the crew have been great to work with. Hopefully this will be the way the whole season will go for the Army team. If it goes like today, we'll be a contender."
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 "THE PASSION OF CHRIST" INTERSTATE CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
ABOUT THE INCIDENT ON PIT ROAD "Yeah, that wasn't very good on my part. (Fatback) said 'Pit if we can pit,' and I was on the high side and I didn't know if I'd run out of gas or not, so I figured it'd be better to try and pit rather than just stick it out, because if you run out of gas on the back straightaway or something, I'd be in worse shape. I slid through the pits there and the guys did a good job of getting me out.
"We lost a lap, but we were fortunate on the 'Lucky Dog' situation, and we got to make it back up. I was catching up to the pack -- I kind of lost the draft there on the restart, it just wouldn't go. They had a big wreck on the backstretch there, I'm glad everyone's OK there. We dodged that. We kind of played catch up there, but it was almost a top 10. I think last year we finished like 80th or something like that, so it was better than that." (Labonte finished 41st in 2003) "I wish we could have finished a lot better. This racing was pretty good today, for me. Early in the race, we could pass a little bit better than at the end. I don't know why it didn't get any better toward the end. For us and a lot of guys, it seemed single-file, I don't know if it was the wind or what. If we could have made up a little bit on one series of runs, maybe we could have caught a couple of cars, maybe we would have been in the pack of cars in front of us."
BRIAN VICKERS, NO. 25 GMAC CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"The No. 30 (Johnny Sauter got loose or something and I checked up and got into Michael (Waltrip). I hate it for everybody - especially for this GMAC Chevy team. I can't thank them enough. I want to thank the President for coming here today and all the support from the fans. I saw a lot of smoke and a lot of dirt flying and a lot of cars. But I'm fine now. I'm just a little bit sore. But other than that, I just held on and let go of the wheel.
"It's the big Daytona. It's kind of like a roller coaster. I heard that Michael is okay and I'm glad of that. I'm looking forward to going to Rockingham. We started last year just like this and we ended up winning the championship. So hopefully we have it come back like it did last year. Our car was handling great. Some cars were loose and some cars were tight. The tires were going off. But it made for good racing. The No. 30 car got loose under us and it was just one of those racing deals."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"I know Brian Vickers was right beside me in the middle and somebody must have ran into him and knocked him into me. I didn't have any reason to think he'd come up into me. All of a sudden we hit the wall.
"When the car stopped, I was pinned way bad. I felt like I was in a box and I couldn't get out. I didn't appreciate the way the safety crews were going about it and I was trying to tell them just to turn the car over. I'd already flipped 10 times or five times or two times - I don't know how many times. All they had to do was flip it back over and I could get out. They were cutting bars. The whole car was on top of me. I don't know what bar they thought they were going to cut that would have alleviated the hole I was in. My brother told me the other day that all the great ones have flipped at Daytona. So I guess I'm one of them now.I don't know what happened. A couple of guys got together and swept me into the fence. It's just disappointing to have a good car and a chance to win another one and see it go up like that.
HOW FRUSTRATED WAS IT TO BE PINNED IN LIKE THAT? "It was kind of crazy. Racing cars is not the safest thing. Maybe at times it's not the sanest thing. You understand you're going to get into some things but you don't worry about what you get yourself into. You look forward to people helping you get out of it. I couldn't see where they were doing a whole lot of good to get me out. I was trying my best to explain to them what needed to happen. And what did they eventually do? They flipped it over and I got out. I hope that was a lesson learned.""
HOW WAS THE RACING? "It was all right. I figured things would be okay if everyone ran their race. Brian getting into the middle is just a little impatient and immature. But this is a race where young drivers do that."
ROBBY GORDON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"I don't know what happened. I thought I had them all cleared. They were wrecking up in front of me on the high side and all of a sudden Michael Waltrip shot across the inside. I don't know how he shot across the inside but when he did, he popped out in front of me. I hope he's okay. Obviously we've gotten ourselves in a little bit of a whole here at the start of the season. We're going to have to work real hard and cross our fingers that we don't have any trouble during the next 26 (races) so we can get back on top of the game."
WITH THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM, IS THAT HOLE DEEPER THAN IT WOULD NORMALLY BE? "Oh, yeah. It's a big hole. We're just going to have to be on it the whole time. We just can't make mistakes from here on out. We've got to stay out of accidents and have good handling cars.