Earnhardt Jr. and Chevrolet drivers comment on Friday Daytona drafting crash

Gordon, McMurray and Earnhardt Jr. give their commentary on the multi-car testing crash Friday afternoon. Earnhardt took responsibility for starting it.


WHAT HAPPENED? “We were just out there running around. I felt like Marcus (Ambrose) was backing up to me in (turns) one and two to get a run down the back. I was just going to give him a push down the back straightaway and see if he could get the lead. I was trying to eventually get the lead myself. We got off the back straightaway and were just kind of pushing him along there and our cars sort of just didn’t match up very well. I got him hooked into the fence. I pushed Martin (Truex) a little bit in his Toyota and they matched up good. The bumpers were good, didn’t have any problem with any of the cars.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

That is the first time I pushed a Ford. The roll bar of the front of my car is just at the right place where his car sets right up on top of that. I sort of had him going down the back straightaway like a forklift. It was a big mess and tore up a lot of cars down here trying to work on their stuff. Definitely the drafting is not like it used to be. You can’t really tandem certain cars; certain cars don’t match up well. Our bumpers on the Chevy’s have a little bit of a point. It makes it a little bit of a challenge to get into guys and kind of help them. We definitely weren’t doing that in the corner at all because it was pretty hairy trying to do it on the straightaways.”

DOES THIS REALLY CHANGE THE MENTALITY HERE NOW? “Pretty much, yeah. It’s going to take a lot more care and concentration and just knowing kind of what is at stake. Certain cars you line up okay with and can push fine and for whatever reason mine and Marcus’ (Ambrose) car didn’t line up good. We got our bumpers together and it hooked him. For whatever reason you’ve got to be careful who you are working with.”

DO YOU THINK THE RACING IS GOING TO BE BETTER? “Yeah, I think the racing will be better because it doesn’t look like we will be able to tandem. The cars are down 50 percent on downforce in the back. They are real tail happy. A lot of guys are really having a lot of snaps and moments out there on the race track where they are getting loose. With that in mind you are definitely not going to be pushing anybody through the corner.”

BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS WHEN YOU WERE DOMINATING PLATE RACES? “Well I’m not setting it up to say I’m going to run better because of this package, but the racing will be different. It’s definitely a movement back toward the way the cars used to be.”

DID IT SURPRISE YOU THAT ALL OF THIS UNFOLDED AN HOUR INTO IT AND THAT THE CARS DIDN’T MATCH UP? “Yeah, I was real surprised. Marcus’ (Ambrose) car was a bit of a handful. He was really loose into the corner and off of the corner, but I thought we were just going to get on going down the back straightaway. He was going to drive to the inside of the leader and take the lead. For whatever reason it just didn’t work.”

IS THIS A FORD REAR TO A CHEVY NOSE THING? OR IS THIS A MARCOS AMBROSE AND DALE (EARNHARDT) JR. THING? “No, it’s not really between me and him. He didn’t do anything wrong. I think it was my responsibility not to wreck him. He doesn’t have much control at that point. That was the first Ford I had pushed. I don’t know. You don’t want to push too many Ford’s if you can help it.”


WHAT HAPPENED? “I don’t know what started it. I know we were in a pack drafting, just trying to learn the cars and what this aero package is doing. Some guys started forming a line on the inside and things started getting a little more aggressive at that point. Somebody must have turned or got turned or something and then they just all started stacking up.”

WE HEARD JIMMIE (JOHNSON) TALKING ABOUT THE LACK OF CARS YOU GUYS HAVE. HOW DETRIMENTAL IS THIS WHEN TWO HENDRICK CARS GET TIED UP LIKE THIS? “Obviously, they look like the really smart guys in the garage by not drafting. Everybody has different theories on it. We feel like we have to go get in those conditions and find out now what we have to deal with to be prepared when we come back here in February, even putting yourself in jeopardy. We will get this car fixed up no problem. It is definitely going to cause some extra work.”

HOW SURPRISED ARE YOU THAT THIS WOULD HAPPEN? “I’m not surprised at all. We see it every year, maybe not quite this big, but you get down here in packs. It’s important to be in those packs and learn what you can learn, especially with a new car. I think you can kind of weigh into both sides of it. You know when the cars are starting to push and move around a lot more that the chances are getting higher that something is going to happen. There are some rookies out there as well. I saw some things happen a couple of laps before that. You just ride it out and hope you can make it through it. Unfortunately, we didn’t in this case.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN? “The cars drive pretty well. You can’t push. Which I think is a good thing. The bad thing is, you can still get to the guys bumper, but the cars just don’t line up very well. You really just shouldn’t even be doing it. Unfortunately, that is kind of that last little bit of momentum that you need to sometimes make the pass or make your lane move. So, it’s something that is going to have to be dealt with very carefully. You are going to have to be cautious when you do it and do it with the right guys, but most of the time you’re going to need to stay away from it. That is certainly something we learned. The cars really get good momentum and shifts by themselves but they run side-by-side for a long time so it’s not easy to complete the pass.”

CAN YOU NOT PUSH BECAUSE YOU ARE LIFTING THE GUY IN FRONT OF YOU UP? “There is a lack of downforce and then the bumpers just don’t line up like they used to. Certainly, the Chevy’s they have a little bit more of a point so they really don’t line up very good. I was pushed by a Ford and it almost spun me. I don’t know if any of them are really lining up that good. Especially, with this kind of downforce that is in the cars. I think it is a great package. I love it. We have to kind of start over again, we have gotten so comfortable with running on one another’s bumpers, pushing and being able to do that. You have to kind of reset a little bit and go back to the way we used to do it where you get close and you still gain momentum and push guys but with the air not necessarily the bumpers.”


WHAT HAPPENED FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE? “I really don’t know. I was two or three rows back. I just saw the No. 9 get turned and then obviously it was just a wreck. I was along for the ride after that.”

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED OUT THERE TODAY? “The first drafting session we were really loose. The cars drove okay not really around people. When I got someone in front of me, beside me and behind me, the car was really unstable. We worked on tightening the car up for the second draft. I never really got to put myself in the same situation again. I felt like we learned some stuff.”

Team Chevy Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Eric Gilbert
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Article type Interview
Tags chevrolet, daytona, drafting, earnhardt, gordon, mcmurray, testing