MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO -- Winner of the Pepsi 400. "What a great car. I've been real fortunate and haven't had an accident in a plate race so therefore Slugger would take the car back home, and if we get beat or...
MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO -- Winner of the Pepsi 400.
"What a great car. I've been real fortunate and haven't had an accident in a plate race so therefore Slugger would take the car back home, and if we get beat or don't get the pole or don't win the race he's right on it and able to tweak it, tune it, try to improve it, and take it to the wind tunnel and learn about it. So the car is about perfect, perfectly balanced aerodynamically and very fast, obviously. And Richie Gilmore and his boys just build unbelievable restrictor-plate engines. And I'm just very fortunate to get to drive the No. 15 NAPA Parts Chevy. It's a dream for me, just to get to run this car at these tracks because I don't feel like there's anyone that can restrictor plate race any better than me and I don't think anybody's got a faster car than me right now. So when you put those two things together, if you believe that, then you should win, and we were able to do that tonight."
ON THE LAST CAUTION WERE YOU DEPENDING ON A RED FLAG?
"I was not anticipating a red flag, I didn't think there would be one. They would have had to have thrown it on the back stretch and it would have come to get one to go and we would have only had a one-lap race. I think there were three or four, it seemed like six or eight, but maybe just two or three restarts already, and with just one lap to go I didn't feel like they would use it. If there were four or five laps to go they would have used it, but they try to work with us on restrictor plate races and with only one lap to go don't put us in that position, but with four or five to go they don't really have a choice but to do that in order to insure a green-flag finish for the fans. We led 99 of the last 100 laps, and I think they should have used that in their decision-making, with a guy who's dominated, maybe they don't throw a caution. I don't really understand when they do or when they don't, but I honestly didn't think they would, because we would have just been able to take the green and the white at the same time and run around in back, and that's kind of crazy."
WAS IT AN EMOTIONAL VICTORY?
"Performing like we were able to is. Because Dale Earnhardt put his signature, his stamp, on this sport. It was his prowess at Daytona and Talladega, his ability to win plate races. He was the best at it. And so he's real proud that his team, that has his name on it, is able to do that, 'cause that makes us real proud. Personally, it just felt great to win. I love Daytona. The first thing I remember doing as a kid was coming to Daytona for Speedweeks. I've always enjoyed coming here."
WAS THERE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU AND JUNIOR IN THOSE LAST 10 LAPS?
"I hear there was communication between the teams but they never really told me anything. My thinking was he had pretty much been loyal to me and faithful to me up until that point. It was my opinion that he was going to try to beat me. And it was also my opinion that he couldn't because I felt I had the fastest car and I knew that if I didn't let him under me he wasn't going to beat me because he couldn't go around the top on me, and I knew he wasn't going to get under me because my car was handling so well, I could pin it right to the bottom. As soon as he made a move to go on the outside on me Rusty saw that that wasn't going to work and he drove in behind me and then that was about it. I was not surprised that he went for it and I would have been disappointed had he not, because I know him and he would be kicking himself in the butt right now if he ran second and didn't try. My experience taught me in Talladega there was no way I was going to pass him. I was running second, there were two laps to go, I had a chance to pull up on the outside of him, and he was so strong that whole day I knew it wouldn't work, so I just bit my tongue and ran second, because I didn't think I could make the move. Ward Burton tried to make the move, got all the way up beside me, with two to go, we finished 16th. Basically the same thing happened to Junior tonight. He tried it, but he didn't have enough car to get around me and he wound up finishing outside of the top five, which I guarantee, I don't know, but I bet he's happy he tried anyway, 'cause he's such a fierce competitor. My experience is why I didn't do that in Talladega, not because I'm a sissy or anything."
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE FANS THROWING DEBRIS ON THE TRACK?
"I thought they were congratulating me. I thought it was like a ticker-tape parade. You mean they were mad? I'm so stupid sometimes."
IS IT NICE TO WIN HERE AGAIN IN DAYTONA?
"It's great. I'm not selfish. I don't need to be told that I'm great to be able to party and all that. I am so driven from inside wanting to be the best and wanting to perform at the best of my ability and so I was sad that Dale Earnhardt got killed. I wasn't sad because I couldn't celebrate. Tonight I'm thankful to win, I'm happy about that. I'm not like jumping up and down or anything right this second, but I guess I'm kind of thinking of what happened the last time I was in this position. I'll have to see how I feel tomorrow."
WHAT SETS DEI APART FROM THE REST OF THE FIELD AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS?
"I have to give a tremendous amount of credit to Steve Hmiel, Richie Gilmore and Slugger Labbe. I had the fastest car and it's because of their effort and DEI's ability to explore every avenue that is available to us today in order to succeed. We go to the proving grounds in Arizona and we go to the wind tunnel. We go to the shaker machines and shake our cars up and down and we just have all the tools. Restrictor plate racing the car is almost an engineering masterpiece. It's just a feat to get a car that will go fast. So, they just deserve so much credit for engineering such a fast Chevrolet. I was thinking that I could win this race coming here, but then since we last raced here there's been a couple of rules changes and you never know who's going to have the upper hand and the fastest car. I just feel very fortunate to be able to sit in a car like I did tonight."
DID WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR CARRY OVER TO THIS PERFORMANCE?
"Well, I';m not any different today than I was when I buckled in my NAPA Chevy for the Daytona 500 mentally. I've been solidly, solidly in a good place mentally since last fall. I admit I didn't know where I was for a while or what I wanted to do and that's unfortunate because so many people count on me. I couldn't help it. Then I got refocused and went to DEI and told Ty and told the guys what we had to do and what I wanted to see done and they did it for me. We struggled some at the first of this year and that was really freaking me out because I knew I had my hand in the pie and I really never felt that way before, so I couldn't really understand exactly why what was going on was going on. I never one time ever thought that I couldn't do this job and I don't believe that I can't go to Chicago and win that race. I'm happy with the way I look at this job. Dale started this team, it's his baby. He was where we were going to get our direction."
"There's been a lot of my competitors and friends faced tragedy. I've been doing this 18 years and I've seen a lot. All those things kind of make you up to be who you are. I can smile about winning the Daytona 500 and I can be happy about winning tonight because I know Dale would be. I'm really good mentally where I'm at. And that's cool. I get all of my motivation and I get all of my drive by what I think, and by what I say, not by what you-all write and what other people say about me. When you are that way then you can't fool yourself. Just think if I believed all the crap that had been written about me forever and then all of a sudden I win one race and everybody talks about how great I am. Well, damn, I thought, I didn't believe them when they said I was terrible, so I darned sure ain't going to believe them now that they say I'm great. I'm just self-motivated; it helps me deal with lots of stuff."
DO YOU SEE THE SITUATION AT DEI SETTLED? "We're going to talk about it in a week or so. By the time all this talk started it was my opinion that it's their team, if they didn't want me to drive it, then they didn't owe me anything. I have a contract until the end of this year. If they wanted to put somebody in it for next year then that was their business. If I wasn't successful enough to want them to keep me there, then I didn't want to be there. I believe I can win. I never really go into all that; where's he going? Does he have a job? I will have a job. I'll have a ride. I just wanted to keep this one, because I love Slugger, I love Richie Gilmore and I love driving the NAPA Auto Parts Chevy. It's the best ride I could ever get, so I don't want to lose it. It wouldn't be the end of the world if I did."
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO MAINTAIN YOUR STRENGTH WITH RESTRICTOR PLATES AND YOUR MOMENTUM FOR REST OF THE SEASON?
"We're doing what we got to do to maintain the strength on the restrictor plates. We already tested the 3 car as we know it. And Richie is hammering on everything he can in the engine room. That's a constant, that never changes, that goes on and on and on. Our performance at the unrestrictor tracks has been the most fun for me because I never bought into the fact that I was good here but I wasn't good anywhere else. We got to prove it, we got to work to get better. Slugger, aerodynamically^ÊThat;s what I like most about his ability. He looks at the car and he knows its going to have four springs and shocks, he knows that's important. He also knows that that body has to be swelled, pooched and sucked and all that stuff has to be done to insure that the car is fast and I can drive it. I can't wait to go to Chicago. We're going to take the same car we took to Michigan, qualilfied on the outside pole, should've had the pole
DO YOU THINK IT'S GOING TO BE EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF AT THESE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES FROM NOW ON?
"No, I don't think that. I'm happy with how we supported each other tonight. I got to the front and he was real important in keeping me there. We got down to the end of the race and he had a shot, he took it. That's what it's all about. I would have done the same thing if I had felt like I could have been successful doing it. I'm more convinced that we're a team and not individuals now than ever."
TALK ABOUT CHICAGO:
"It's a lot of fun to go to a new facility like we did last year and run the inaugural race. It's more fun to go back the second time because Chicago has a rough winter and the track cures somewhat over the winter, they have had more events there. I think the racing will be a hundred percent different when we go back than it was last year. That will give you guys something to see, some experience and watch as we watch the track kind of evolved into a more two-groove, even three-groove type of facility. I believe in my heart that you'll see that when we go back there."
WAS IT MORE THE DRIVER TONIGHT AS OPPOSED TO QUALIFYING?
"I was just kidding about the drunk monkey thing. I thought it was funny. It becomes running 183 miles an hour around this track is very easy to do. And then when you put all 43 cars out there it becomes one of the most difficult things you ever tried to do. It becomes so mentally tense to calculate, strategize and be thinking about how your car is handling and when you're going to pit. And that you don't want to get too good a restart. Constantly there's issues that you're dealing with. Mentally more taxing than any other race track are the Daytona and Talladega races."
DONUTS LOOKED LIKE A 3 IN THE GRASS.
"It's an 82 if you go the other way. I never did donuts before so I didn't want to do it on pavement because I was afraid I didn't know how. I figured any idiot could do them in the grass. So I just went out there and did me a couple. I never was a donut guy. I just thought you ought to win and go into victory lane. With the celebration that the fans gave me by throwing all that stuff I felt like I owed them something."