DALE EARNHARDT, JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER IMPALA SS, QUALIFIED SECOND: TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAP "We had a real good car in practice, so I knew if I just tried to do a clean lap, we'd be somewhere in the top 10. And the car - they made some changes...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER IMPALA SS, QUALIFIED SECOND:
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAP
"We had a real good car in practice, so I knew if I just tried to do a clean lap, we'd be somewhere in the top 10. And the car - they made some changes in air pressure and the car was even better than it was in practice. I was able to get in there and put in a lap. A little bit loose in, but not too bad. The car stayed in yaw real good through the center of the corner. And I just mashed on the throttle so we didn't pick up a push and miss the exit. And I felt like it was just a good, clean lap and I knew Ryan or some other guys might have a great shot at it. Ryan's really good at getting up on the wheel and qualifying really hard.
"We haven't started on the front row in a long time, so we're really pleased - quite pleased with our run today and just looking forward to the weekend, hopefully. We ran some race runs in practice and I think we've got to work on the long runs a little bit. We get a little tight after a few laps, so we're just concentrating on that right now.
YOU'RE THE ONLY CHEVY IN THE TOP FIVE. CAN YOU MAINTAIN CHEVY'S DOMINANCE?
"Sure. I think we have a great shot at running well. With the way this car is made and the way it was produced, I don't think you can really look at seeing any one manufacturer slouching or dominating. I think it just really comes down to the teams themselves and how well they prepare, the individuals themselves putting each car together. I gotta give all those guys the credit who are up there. Bobby (Labonte) had a great run, and I know that they're thrilled with their run. They were pretty good in practice, so that didn't surprise me at all.
"I ran some race runs in the first half of practice and my car would get tight after about four laps. I need to work on that. We're going to study that really hard and we've already talked about that. You try to get about a list of about 10 things that you can try before you ever start practice tomorrow morning. So we're making that list right now, so we can really run through that quickly and maximize our time that we have tomorrow to try and get the thing turning better.
"A lot of times, it's me overdriving it. So, we were terrible at Charlotte. We do this every weekend. We practice terribly because I'm overdriving the car, and then when the race starts, I find out how deep I was getting in the corner and I readjust everything, and then we're fine. So, I just have to try and keep that in mind tomorrow and hopefully we'll be satisfied before the race starts with how we're going to be."
WHAT DO YOUR TIRE TEMPERATURES LOOK LIKE?
"The temperatures are typical. The one thing that I was worried about was the tire pressure build up. We had . we started with more than we should have. We have a habit of, if Goodyear recommends a 3-pound split to the right front down the right side, we always put another pound in there. They just want to be on the safe side and we've always done that. In fact, in a track that we've run well at, we'll start practice with 100 pounds more in the right front just as a safety night. After 5, or 6 or 7 or 8 laps I'd have a 10-pound split in the right side. So a lot of teams will even that split prior to running, take that recommended 3-pound split and go with that. We just have to figure out where we need to be.
"Apparently, over the last three years in this sport, the engineers learned enough about the tire data to understand what the target pressure is on a tire run. A 10-lap run, 15-lap run, there's a target pressure that they try to get do and not exceed. So Tony, Jr. (crew chief Eury) and the guys will mess around with the pressures, just trying to hit that target on each of the four corners. And we're missing the corner a little on the right rear, so we need to either add some air there or take some out of the right front."
IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE YOU'VE HAD A POLE. WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT THAT?
"We were pretty excited at the opportunity to win a pole. Those type of things are definitely feathers in your cap and nice to get. Been a while since I've won one. I don't really know what the rules are with the (Bud) Shootout, but even if you do win, I don't know how long you're guaranteed a spot in that thing, with the Winston or whatever. But you try to get in there on merit or success, not because you're a past champion or winner in that event.
"We'd like to be sitting up there drawing in February for a stating spot in the Shootout because we have a pole in the previous season, not because we were a champion or winner in that race over the last several years. It's just a better feeling and you feel more solidified amongst your competitors. Second was close and we can take a little sense of pride in that accomplishment. You've got second to Ryan (pole-winner Newman), which is probably even easier to swallow than taking it from some of these other guys. He's always been great at qualifying and really been able to get a good lap in. He was in the top 10 in practice, so I knew he was a threat.
"Hopefully, I'll have a better car to start the race and we can get off to a good start and get out front. That clean air is going to be important starting up there, just like Charlotte last week. We didn't have one of the best cars but being up front in the clean air helped us stay there all night. And hopefully we can maximize that all day Sunday. Once you lose that track position, you find out how bad your car really is. But when you're running in the top five in the clean air, you can actually maintain, even if your car's a little bit off. But hopefully, we won't have to worry about that because the car will be strong and we'll just dominate."
HAS IT BEEN AN EYE-OPENER TO SEE OTHER SHOPS? HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY MORE CLARITY ABOUT NEXT YEAR?
"I have never had the opportunity to see any shops outside DEI in my driving career. That was a big surprise for me. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary or didn't see any golden eggs laying around. But there were basically, you know, I was surprised at how on par in some places DEI really is. And there's . I never really felt like me and Tony, Jr. (crew chief Eury) had any trouble competing and being competitive at DEI. The reasons why I left were truly personal and not competition related. But you look at these other teams that win more races and there's an obvious difference between the two companies or three or four companies. So you look at that and you say, 'What are we not doing?' Well, I got a chance to look around these shops and see some of the areas where teams are sort of branching out and growing.
"One of the things that did surprise me was when you look at the shops, where the cars are, where the people are, where the pieces are - the rear ends, the a-frames, trailing arms, the tools, all those things, the stock metal, everything. It's the same, all the way across the board in every shop. There's no big difference. That was kind of a surprise. I thought some teams would be different, but they're all about the same.
"It's those things behind those doors on the left and behind those doors on the right, those are the things that are different that the teams are doing that you see or haven't seen before. Machines that are doing things that you can't comprehend. And double shifts. People really investing in double shifts on certain things. So that was kind of interesting.
"But I've learned a lot. I don't particularly want to be in this situation. But I'm trying to make it as positive a learning experience as I can. We're trying not to comment too much on how things are going or what's going on until we can really have something to say, but I can tell you that things are positive. I've just been overwhelmed with the personalities that I've met, with the owners and the individuals working at each company. There are certainly a lot of great people out there with good morals and good values and with great attitudes about the sport and about what they want to accomplish. It makes me feel good about where the sport's going to be in the next 5-10 years with some of these individuals I've met.
"When I can really get down to business and tell you guys what's going on, we'll definitely do that. I'll be as excited as heck to be able to tell everybody what I'm going to do and where I'm going to be. And I'm looking forward to that. And I think that's going to happen within the time schedule that my sister has expressed over the last several weeks. It's looking good."
ON STILL BELIEVING MADE RIGHT DECISION:
"I have drawn a pretty good bead on where I want to be with respect to a handful of teams. It has been weird; I have always tried to be gracious and respectful. I want to give everybody an opportunity and I feel real uncomfortable saying that, you know. I want to hear what these other guys have to say when it comes to these other teams. There is really, within reason, a trio, or three or four teams we are talking with extensively.
"As I have said, I want to continue driving Chevrolets. That spells it out pretty good for a lot of people. Chevrolet has been good to me. They have complimented my Busch Series program. They have supported me and complimented me in my career. And just for a couple of extra bucks, I wouldn't want to go drive for another manufacturer. I don't have those relationships with those other manufacturers although I am sure there are great people working there.
"I just hate talking about this so much because I know the public just grows tired of reading about it. We aren't really saying anything different than we have been saying over the last couple of months. They would rather read a new story or hear something totally different than read the same thing over and over, I am sure. That is how I feel personally as a fan.
"I am excited, I don't mind answering questions about it. I am just trying to explain the situation the best I can. I feel the same as I did the day I made the announcement. I a lot better today than I felt that day, I felt pretty terrible that day. I feel like I am doing everything for myself and that is a good, good feeling."
ON HOW HARD THE DOVER RACE IS ON DRIVERS AND CARS:
"It can be. This race feels just as long as the 600, next week at Pocono is going to feel just as long. Physically it isn't tougher; there are times at Charlotte where you can relax. There are times at Charlotte in the 600 where your pace is constant and settled enough to where there is not a lot of physical work in the corner even for a big chunk of that race there in the middle. You are basically just happy to be in the top-five and try and maintain that. If you think you can catch the guy and take the lead and get some fans on their feet, then you do it. But if it looks like a bunch of hard work, you settle for second or third at the 250-mile mark. But this race, the surface of the track makes the tires just skip across the top of it. Concrete has never been one of my favorites. I built a concrete track at my house and it was the worst mistake I ever made. I want to dig it up and put asphalt on it. It is slick and dusty, but it is fun if you can get your car working in the top groove.
"That is what I am looking forward to tomorrow, is to find if I can get in there high, get to working that top groove a little bit. See if I can move my car up on the track and make up some time up off the corner. I was finding it difficult and getting tight running up off running the bottom in practice. So tomorrow I want to move up and see if I can get that arc and get my car pointed up off the corner and get some speed there on some guys. If we can do that, it is going to be a fun race. If not, if we are all chiseling around the bottom all day long, just trying to get the thing around the corner and pushing and sliding the nose, trying to keep the nose under the car, it is a long race. You just try to be better than the next guy, not really making up much ground.
ON IF TRACKS FEELS DIFFERENT THAT LAST YEAR:
"It feels the same as last year here. I was trying to explain it and I am not very good at it, but these cars are easier to drive, not more fun or better handling, it is two different things. They are wider so they have a little more grip, a little more stability. They settle on the track and get in to the race track better, fell better. They have more forward bite most places, but they don't turn as good, they are really really tight. You are frustrated by changing everything you can change on the car and having no results in practice to get the car to turn. That is what we mean when we complain about how they drive. They are easier to drive, if that makes any sense. I find that there is less opportunities for me to get in to trouble and get in to the fence and bust my butt, or overdrive it and get it loose. There is less of that going on than there was with the old car. In the old car, we were hung out. We were fast and loose all the time. If you weren't you weren't fast. So you had to be that way and risked wrecking a lot, so I feel like there is a lot less of that here because we are so tight.
"I look forward to running the new car full-time next year. I think it was a great call. It was the best call they could have made to get us in these cars as they can get us in them and learn as much as we can. We have to be able to improve the racing a little bit and the only way is to learn about these cars some more and getting them to turn a little bit better so we all can get around the corner faster and be able to pass each other. If we are all tight and pushing behind each other, there isn't going to be much passing.
"I am glad it isn't 500 miles here. It used to be 500 miles around this place. They would start these races at lunch and still be here at dark. Hopefully they will listen at a couple other tracks where we do that get some excitement in that racing.
"There is a good opportunity for us to go win here. We have always run good here, always have liked this track. We have been a little hit and miss but this just feels like a good week to me. I feel like we are going to be up there in the top-10 all day."
ON HOW MUCH CONTINUED INPUT TONY EURY, JR. IS HAVING VIA THE TELEPHONE AND HOW TONY GIBSON LIKES WEARING CREW CHIEF HAT:
"I think Tony Gibson is really enjoying it and is happy. Anytime Gibson can have some success in a controlled position like a crew chief, it is good for him. It is good for his confidence as a person. He deserves it; he is a really good guy. He has had some opportunities as a crew chief that we know about and he hasn't succeeded, not failures in my mind, but he never succeeded and had successes in those positions. This is good for him, I think it helps him a lot. He may have an opportunity in the future to crew chief again, this may be talking him in to making that decision for himself whereas he might not have done it himself, he may have never tried it again. So, it is great for him.
"Since Gibson is doing so good, we have had less conversations with Tony, Jr. this week. I am just joking. He chimed in on the phone a few minutes before qualifying to make an air pressure adjustment that we made, that we liked. I hate doing that because he is so far away and disconnected from what we are doing here at the track, not right there to see what is happening in the garage and whatnot. I trust him on his calls and felt pretty solid about it and it helped the car."
ON MICHAEL WALTRIP:
"When I think of Michael, I think about how big of a struggle that has been for him mentally. How hard it has been on him. We all know Michael pretty well and what kind of a guy he is. He has his good days and his bad days but he has always been a friend of mine. I know that he has been in a rough spot. So this is good for him to qualify for this race. I am sure he is going to try to make the best of it. Try to do the best he can to finish all the laps and not make any mistakes. He will probably be more mindful of not making mistakes and not crashing the car than he has ever been in a race car before because he wants to run the whole race. It looks like they are improving. I thought Jarrett did a good job last week and ran a little bit better. Just seeing some small signs of them gaining some ground so that good for Michael.
"I read the rumors. I don't know if he might team up with somebody or another, which might be good for his company if he can bring something together. But he might not want to either."
ON DOVER BEING FIRST REAL TEST FOR NEW RACE CAR:
"I thought Phoenix was really a pretty good test for it. We struggled and failed that test, but... I think that some of the surprises in qualifying today is directly related to not testing here for any of us. If you look at a lot of guys that ran well in qualifying, those are teams that traditionally run with less technology and less knowledge, just data, engineers. So, why they run good is because they always run a basic setup and that is going to keep the car off the splitter. These other teams come in here with all this technology and this is how we can run the front end, low and down on the ground. But they are bouncing across the race track and they aren't quite dialed in and they run out of time and they have to throw something together for qualifying. Some of them make it and run decent. Like us, I ran a 1,500 spring in the front in, that is a big spring compared to what we normally run here. That is like old school stuff, big ole stuff in the front. I am sure Petty's car wasn't running around there on a pair of 350s or 450s, they probably had some standard big stuff in the front. That is sort of the catch net for us, that is how we been able to run good at Bristol. We ran a 2,200 in the right front at Bristol. Dale Jarrett said he raced for 20 some years and never raced a 2,200 in Bristol. What I saying is that teams that have tested less, like us, teams that have less data and engineer help, we don't have guys coming to us saying this is the package you need we studied on the seven-post blah, blah, blah, we just throw 1,850 or 1,900 at the right front that works good enough. It is not the answer for 400 laps, it makes it tight after about four laps so I have to work really hard tomorrow to figure out what I need to do, learn what I need to learn, to get the car to turn. But I think that is why you have some surprises up there in qualifying today. Like the No. 96, they have been running better, but those were some really good laps they put up in practice. Myself, I thought he (Tony Raines) was going to get the pole. So that is probably why you have seen those guys run good today."
-credit: gm racing