DALE EARNHARDT JR , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Race 1 Winner Comments from the Media Center: "It was hard for anybody to get the lead. Once you got it, you could keep it real easy. The cars were just real tight. From second on...
DALE EARNHARDT JR , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Race 1 Winner
Comments from the Media Center: "It was hard for anybody to get the lead. Once you got it, you could keep it real easy. The cars were just real tight. From second on back, you would just push real bad behind the leader. I told Tony (Eury) Jr. to just do all he could to get the car as loose as he possibly could for that second run so I could try to pass."
HOW HAS THE HANDLING FACTOR CHANGED THIS RACE NOW? "You really can't run as hard as you want. I knew the right front tire was going to blow on somebody's car before we got to the end of the fuel run because of how bad the tires were wearing out in practice. Being hotter today and us being out there in race conditions was just a little harder on the tire under those circumstances. And sure enough, somebody's tire blew out. Tony Jr. made some changes and they were pretty good but the car was still pretty tight. I just lifted every corner."
ON THE POST-RACE COMMENTS BETWEEN TONY EURY JR. AND MICHAEL WALTRIP "Well, they're both real funny. I don't get too involved in it. I'll just tell you as honest as I can tell you. With this tire and how tight everybody is behind the leader, me and Michael can't sit there and say all right we're going to team up and go around everybody. Michael made a decision early in the race to go to the bottom. At one point I was thinking we've got a pit stop to go and he could just sit here and push the right front off of me. But he made the decision. He wanted to go up there and try to take the lead. And he made the decision to win the race. He's got a team back at the shop just like I do - not to help people, but to go win - just like I do. I got a lesson in that a couple of years. When it came time I decided to try to pass Michael if I could. And I got an opportunity. I got a run. There was a hole. I went under him and made a good pass on him. I wasn't happy about him leaving me by myself, but I know he wasn't happy that I went to pass him.
"But with this combination, if I'd have sat behind him and run behind him for the rest of the race, I'd have gotten so tight that I would have probably lost second place - maybe more than that. And it was either battle tooth and nail for second on through fifth or whatever, or go for the win. I knew as soon as my car got out front nobody could get by. I knew how it was to run second. I knew it was impossible back there. They'll argue. It's just common-place for Michael and Tony Jr. to argue. When you run two smart-asses into each other head-on, they're liable to go off on each other."
WILL THIS SITUATION CARRY OVER TO SUNDAY - NOT BECAUSE OF MICHAEL WALTRIP AND TONY EURY JR. BUT BECAUSE OF THE TIRE? "On that other tire where we could just run forever, now you can't help each other. You're not really helping anybody. You're just trying to turn and not push into the wall. When I was running high and Burton was behind me, he really couldn't help me go anywhere. He was having to lift and he was having to lift. I was lifting leading. That's how tight it was. Tony Stewart told my spotter if I would give me a foot to get some clean air on the left front of my car and move up a little bit, I'll stay right here. Which basically meant that if you don't I'm going to do whatever I can because he's making me so tight I can't stand it. It's pretty tough right now with this package we've got. The tire is not a good tire. Imagine if we had full fuel cells. This would be awful. I couldn't imagine it. Everybody would be bouncing off the fence."
IS THIS GOING TO BE A DRIVERS RACE? "Maybe its not as bad as I think it is. In that second run, I just decided I was going to lift even if I can run wide-open so I could be as easy as I could on that right front tire. I lifted from the drop of that green flag to the end of the race. We're all so used to running wide open around here. But maybe you've got to lift. Maybe that's going to be part of racing at plate tracks. I'm complaining because I want it to be a lot easier, I guess. Maybe I shouldn't complain so much. But it's fun having a challenge like that. Some guy is worse than you are. That's one thing that you don't think about. There are some guys in the field who are having worse problem than you are. It's just a huge difference from how these cars drove here last year."
WILL IT COME DOWN TO THE TALENT OF THE DRIVER ON SUNDAY? "The driver can only do so much with a car that won't turn. I can't tell you that it would make a bigger difference. Now you can hardly hang on to the bottom line. You're not going to see that racing like you say in the Bud Shootout because it's too hot today. If it's cool during the 500, you might see some better racing. But it's too hot for these tires. The 500 is just going to be a bunch of guys hanging on to the cords of the tire."
DID YOU GET SATISFACTION FROM THIS VICTORY WITH ALL THAT YOU HAD TO DO? "Yeah, it wasn't that big of a deal. We just passed Michael (Waltrip). We're just not as excited as we were last year. We're back again with the same car and we feel like we just need to concentrate on winning the 500. The only thing that I'm excited about is that I just got one step closer to winning more races than my daddy ever did here."
WAS THERE A POINT THAT CHANGED THINGS REGARDING HOOKING UP WITH MICHAEL WALTRIP? "There was one point in the race where I was running the top. Michael and two other guys were up front. I was so tight, I couldn't run directly behind them because the air was too dirty. I started running the top to get clean air on the nose of my car. I was starting to make up some ground. But none of us was going to run up there and pass the leader. Michael started running the top and took all the air and I told him to just pick one lane or the other. That's what that was all about."
HOW DOES THIS TIRE RUN WITH YOUR BUSCH SET-UP? "I can't give you a good idea. You don't know until you've got 10 or 15 guys pushing you down in the corner about 5mph faster than you normally go into it by yourself. That's when you're seeing the tire wear is when we all get in the draft together and pick up a little more speed going into the corner and run those speeds consecutively. They do the tire test out here with two race cars. What sense does that make? When they took all the Busch cars to Talladega, maybe they should have brought them here and tire tested at the same time. I don't think they did a good job, in my opinion. I'd be glad to do the tire test for them if they want to."
WHEN YOU RACED WITH JEFF GORDON EARLY IN THE RUN, DID YOU GET A CHANCE TO EVALUATE HIM? "I can't recall running with him that much. As far as the concentration level out there, you can only fit so many laps in your memory bank. I forgot all but maybe the last three laps."
MORE ON THE TIRES "Basically we all got what we were wishing for. We complained all last year. Maybe that's just the drivers. We complain about everything. Until you give us a car that will basically just drive itself, we'll all complain. The racing was easier and it wasn't any better. You can pass a little more. They put a little larger spoiler on the rear of the cars that we've never run here. The last Talladega race was the first time we ran it. That gives you a better closing rate and you're able to draft up on the guy in front of you and pass him. You can pass the leader a lot better than you could with the other package. We just need a better tire. That's not to say that this tire is a poorly made tire. It's just not the tire we need here today. It might be a great tire for the 400 because it seemed to do pretty decent with the Shootout at night. But I think they went just a little bit too far when they changed the tire.
WILL THE DRIVERS HAVE TO DO MORE? "When the tires start to go away and the car starts to push around or slide around, the driver starts to do a lot more than he normally does as far as letting off. He's setting himself up for a better exit or entrance. He's trying to change the poor handling by moving around. So the driver has more to do and is more involved in making a better lap time. But at the same time, when the car won't turn the car won't turn. So it doesn't matter how good you are if you're stuck behind some guys late in the race on old tires. I don't know what amount of magic would take the guy into the lead."
AFTER TODAY'S RACE, WHAT CHANCE DO YOU GIVE YOURSELF ON SUNDAY? "I feel like today we made some things happen on the race track to give that some substance as far as claiming to be the favorite of the race. But Michael (Waltrip) has won two out of the last three and I feel like he's at the top of the list No matter what happens during the rest of Speedweeks. He had a great car and he could have just as easily have won that race as anybody else. That was maybe more of a mental error - if an error at all. That was more mental than any kind of car vs. car thing out there today. He just left a small hole open that he probably would have wished he'd have covered up. That didn't have anything to do with one car being better than another. I think he's got a great race car. His is as good as mine. I couldn't tell you which one is the better of the two. I'd like to think mine is. If you put my car out front, it's a beast. But I'm just the same as everybody else from second on back trying to pass the leader.
"When I was out front, my car just took off. Normally when you get pushed into the lead, you try to lift a little bit so you don't get so far out front that they just mow you right over. But it maintained its speed. That's one thing that car has always been good at. When it gets a run, it keeps it a little longer. That's what we can't seem to find in the Shootout car that we ran earlier this week."