Daytona Shootout: Winning team press conference

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT WINNER, JOINED BY CREW CHIEF TONY EURY JR AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS OWNER RICK HENDRICK. PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT: Q: ON THE WIN: TONY EURY JR: "It was awesome. It...

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT WINNER, JOINED BY CREW CHIEF TONY EURY JR AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS OWNER RICK HENDRICK.

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT:

Q: ON THE WIN:

TONY EURY JR: "It was awesome. It felt really good to be back like we was supposed to be and Dale Jr. kind of showed it like what we were back in 2000 and just to come into Hendrick Motorsports and perform like this and the teammates that helped us out so much and there towards the end of the race were a big, big help. We knew we weren't going to be able to beat them alone. Our car was good all night and Junior just drove his butt off and it was really pleasing."

DALE JR: "Man, I don't know where to start. It's crazy. We had a lot of help at the end from Jimmie (Johnson). That really was half the credit to the win. The other half was the car being capable of being up there in the first place. I had a great handling package. It was really fast. I had great runs up off the corner and had a great motor. The car was just really good. I had a good car handling all night. And tried just to stay up in the top three or two and we did that. And we just got lucky at the end being in the right lane and getting the right help from the right guy. I think whoever wins the race, that's the situation and we were able to be that person. I was just really lucky."

Q: HOW BENEFICIAL WAS IT KNOWING THERE WERE THREE OTHER CARS OF EQUAL CALIBER THAT COULD BE THERE AND HELP YOU AT ANY TIME TO GET THE VICTORY?

DALE JR: "That was great, looking up in the mirror and seeing teammates and seeing them pushing you and helping you. Jeff (Gordon) got a couple of runs and went around us but that's what I would have done. Those guys work just as hard as they do at DEI. I learned this. And they go out to win just as hard as you do. You can only expect so much dedication when it comes to being a teammate and you've got to work together and we did. I got a lot of help tonight. There weren't that many time when I was able to help them because we were out front so much, but that's the way it should be as far as how it went tonight; being able to help each other and stay toward the front. But when you've got the opportunity to take the lead or put yourself in position to win, you do it. And it was great. They've got fast cars just like we do and if we work together, it would be harder to beat us and harder for us to lose."

Q: YOU CAME TO THIS TEAM AND EVERYBODY EXPECTED YOU TO BE FAST RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT A RELIEF IT IS TO GET THE MONKEY OFF YOUR BACK SO YOU DON'T HAVE ANY QUESTIONS TO ANSWER RIGHT AWAY?

DALE JR: "I don't know, I never felt like I had a monkey on my back. I've always raced with pressure. I've always raced and worked and lived in tumultuous situations and I just got used to it I guess. And Tony (Eury) Junior working with me, side-by-side, we grew up through it even before we got to this level, life wasn't easy. And it wasn't ever a golden road and easy to travel. But it is what it is. There is a lot of pressure, I think, for us. But we've always delivered. And I hope we will continue. I've got to thank a lot of people for the preparation we had coming into this season, not just Tony Jr. and the team, but there were a lot of people throughout the sponsor ranks and the PR side of it, the personal side of it and family and friends. There are so many people who helped prepare this deal and hoping to get it right to where we could come in here and be able to work under this microscope, you know? And Tony (Stewart) and Kurt (Busch) getting into it the other day (during practice) took us off the front page. I felt such a relief after that happened. I wasn't happy for those guys to be in that situation, but I felt like a load had been lifted off my shoulders when I saw them walking to the NASCAR hauler. And that was just as good as any push Jimmie could have given me (laughter). But me and Junior, we're just lucky. We are so fortunate. We've got such a great team and supporting cast back at the shop. Rick (Hendrick) does a great job of putting great people in the right place and he has for years and we're just so fortunate to be in the middle of it."

Q: THE NEW CAR OBVIOUSLY WORKS. HOW MUCH OF A FACTOR IS THAT GOING TO BE ON SUNDAY? ALSO, JIMMIE JOHNSON AND JEFF GORDON WERE IN SHORT TRACK CARS, YET CHALLENGED FOR THE VICTORY. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT THE CAR?

DALE JR: "The handling was great for me. I think the race will be fine. The race has always been slick. The cars have always had a little bit of handful to them. But I've got a great set-up in what I ran tonight. We should continue to have that the rest of the week. I don't know. Tony Junior can tell you probably that them cars ain't that much different than you would think."

TONY EURY JR: "No, NASCAR is keeping us in such a tight box with the templates and the grids that they have, I mean, there is no difference between the short track and this car other than you might have a brake duct behind the nose or something. But you can take your Martinsville car and you can take your Daytona car and there might not be three counts of drag between them. So the only thing you can do is just slick it up, you know, put a nicer paint job on it and stuff like that and maybe mess with some crush panels. And when it gets in the draft, everybody knows it's an equalizer. So probably the only place that you would see it is if you were doing a single car run. There's not that big of a factor on tonight's race."

Q: OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE PRETTY HAPPY RIGHT NOW. CAN YOU REMEMBER THE LAST TIME YOU WERE THIS HAPPY AND EXCITED AT A RACE TRACK? ALSO, DID YOU COME INTO THIS RACE FIGURING YOU MIGHT BE HERE RIGHT NOW?

TONY EURY JR: "No. Every race I've ever won, I couldn't believe it. That's the feeling I get. I go to victory lane and I just can't believe I'm standing there with all my friends and the people that I enjoy working with, and celebrating. It's just hard to believe. But I think the Daytona 500 is hard to top. It ranks right up there with the Winston, and the races that we probably weren't expecting to win or I didn't expect to be. I knew going into this race that my car was fast. But there were so many other unknowns (like) the COT and the draft and how was the draft going to work and would we lead it? The whole race I felt like we were leading and we were leading and we're going to get beat on that last lap by a slingshot. It's great that we have the slingshot back. That's pretty awesome. So even though I was enjoying it, I didn't want to be the victim of it there. And fortunately we weren't. We just got side-by-side for third and I knew as long as they stayed side-by-side for third, Tony wouldn't be able to really get a good run."

Q: WHEN YOU SAT DOWN THE FIRST TIME YOU TRIED TO PICTURE THIS RACE, COULD YOU HAVE VISUALIZED A BETTER OUTCOME IN THE SENSE THAT YOU LED FOR MOST OF THE RACE, GOT BEHIND, AND THEN GOT THE WIN IN THE END? THIS WAS AN IDEAL SITUATION FOR YOU GUYS

TONY EURY JR: "I think it was. I'm like Dale Junior, I'm thinking how could you give this one away toward the end of the race. But we try to do everything that we can that's possible during the race and that was kind of like a storybook ending for me. I'm sitting there with a new team and pumping these guys up, which we've got the old No. 25 guys, and just telling them hey, we need to go down there and start this week off right. It's just a storybook line. Dale Junior looked just like he did in 2004 down here, feeing the draft and all those guys, just the fire in their eyes of like hey, we're going to victory lane and it's starting us off. I mean it's overwhelming. That's what gratifies me is when you help somebody else's life, not just my own, but just you satisfy somebody else and that's the biggest thing that I see on this team is I want to build a fire with them and win races with them and everybody just have a good time and enjoy themselves."

: ON THE RACE:

RICK HENDRICK: "It was an awful good race. I think it put on a good show. I don't know what took him so long to win a race (laughter). It sure takes a lot of pressure off to come down and run good in the first race and get a win early and just have a long of fun. I think that's the important thing."

Q: ON HAVING ALL FOUR CARS IN THE TOP-SIX IN TONIGHT'S FINISH INDICATING THAT JIMMIE'S TOUGHEST COMPETITION GOING TO COME FROM HIS TEAMMATES:

RICK HENDRICK: "I wish it was going to be that easy, but that is not going to be the case. There are good cars that weren't out there in that race tonight. We were fortunate there at the end. It is going to be a very competitive year. These Toyotas are awfully fast. You have Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton and all those guys that weren't in there tonight. I think we are going to be real competitive, but it is going to be a tough

year. I think this will be the best 500, most competitive 500 that you have ever seen. If you don't start up near the front, you are going to have a hard time getting to the front. I predict this will be one of the best years we have had in NASCAR, with a lot of different winners and a very competitive season."

Q: ON THE PRESSCONFERENCE BEING A LITTLE DIFFERENT THAN WITH OTHER DRIVERS AND EMOTIONS:

RICK HENDRICK: "It was real special. I have never had so many emotions going through me at the end of a race. One, because I thought about Ricky, because he wanted this and they talked about doing this, and this happened. Then I thought about Robert G, because he and I came down here and raced together in a Busch car named Emma. The car he is going to drive in the 500 is Emma and I have his two grandchildren sitting here, so there is a whole lot of neat stuff going on, I mean we are like giddy. It is kind of like...well, I guess you might notice that. It's a different feeling; we are having a lot of fun. I have to show you guys a picture of Tony Eury, Jr. when he was 14 when I was driving a Busch car at Atlanta, and that was the first race he went to, when I was driving that Busch car. His Granddaddy let him go, then to see him here, seeing these two guys, do what they did tonight, the first time out of the box, after all the heat that has been on them, boy they took a lot of heat off of me tonight. So, it is really special. We are really enjoying this, this is going to be a fun week."

Q: ON SKY HIGH EXPECTATIONS WHEN SIGNING JUNIOR AND WEIGHT COMING OFF AFTER TONIGHT:

RICK HENDRICK: "I think as much as the win, the test we had in Atlanta, the test in Vegas and California; the way Tony Eury, Jr. has interacted with the other crew chiefs and engineers, the way that Dale has worked with the other drivers, one of the things I was concerned about was chemistry more than winning. Because, I felt like we can win and I felt like we would be competitive, you know you have to get in a position to win. I think they went to the top of the board in Vegas right off the start, it feels good to answer the question can we win. Ok, we have done that. It takes a big load off."Man, if we had broke a motor out there tonight, I would have changed clothes and gotten the ambulance to take me out to the hospital. I was thinking about that too, man, don't break nothing. Please, don't break anything. It is a tremendous amount of pressure, but we knew that and but again, I can say this. The chemistry is unbelievable and that is something that you just...that is the hard part. You see all those other three drivers come in victory lane and you see him come down here early for the test, the commitment these two guys have put in. I mean he has answered the question to me with a bold statement. He is as hungry and committed as anybody that has ever sat down in one of my race cars. That question has been answered. It just feels good. Like he said. He has an awesome amount of talent. I used to hate to see him come to the front when I had a car down here. I mean, when you would see him get lined up, you knew you were going to have to deal with him. It is a whole lot better having him in our car, I will tell you that. I think everybody has said it a lot, but this feels so good, just to get it out of the way. I know from the other tests, that he is going to be strong and stout at the other places too and we have Nationwide race coming up, we have the big race coming up, the 500, we have the 150s and I can't wait for everyone of them. I just think it is going to be a show. I think we saw tonight, the fans are going to get their money's worth in these races."

ON COMBINATION OF NO. 25 TEAM MEMBERS WITH NEW MEMBERS FOR DALE'S TEAM:

RICK HENDRICK: "I will tell you something, you look at that team and you look at those two cars and you got Tony Eury, Jr. and you have Darian Grubb who has won and was part of the No. 48 and the No. 24 sitting on the boxes, you have Brian Whitesell. That shop is loaded with talent; it is not just the No. 25 team; that is a blend of the No. 25 and the No. 5. We shuffled some people around and then Tony brought some guys with him, so it is kind of a mixture, but it is good to see. I think you are going to see some really good things out of the No. 5 and the No. 88, you have already seen it tonight. There is a lot of talent, there is an awful lot of talent but they are working together."Junior has made them all feel special. Everybody in that whole shop was over there tonight congratulating Tony Eury, Jr. and Dale, Jr. because it is about 80 or 90 guys that are working hard to make this thing work."

Q: ON WHO HE DEDICATED THE RACE TO:

TONY EURY, JR: "My setup guy, Joey Arnold, his kid was five years old and had terminal disease of some kind and died last Tuesday. I walked in there coming back from the California test, I said 'Joey, what are you doing here?' His kid had died the day before. He said 'This is my best chance to win the Daytona 500 and I want to be a part of it.'

"To me that kind of dedication from that guy, that meant a lot to me, so I told Joey that was for him. You put yourself in a position where something like that happens; it is unbelievable that there is that much dedication and that much want to win these races. A lot of people don't realize how big these races are. I mean there are a lot of families out here that don't get to come week to week and a lot of time...people say this sport makes a lot of money. The way I look at it,you get paid to not have a life sometimes.

"When things like that happen, it hits me emotionally and I am so thankful that I have people that dedicated behind me and I go out here and perform for them."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton
Teams Hendrick Motorsports