Comments from Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "That's the same car we ran at Texas and Charlotte and it seems to run good anywhere we take it. We've just had a terrible luck this week. We blew a right front ...
Comments from Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
"That's the same car we ran at Texas and Charlotte and it seems to run good anywhere we take it. We've just had a terrible luck this week. We blew a right front (tire) in practice and crashed our primary car and had to go to a back-up. We had to take a provisional in qualifying. And then we had an oil filter in the O-line backwards and blew a motor up during first practice. And then a hood hinge come loose during second practice. We had about 20 minutes (of practice time) altogether this week. It was just a mess. We didn't know what was going to go wrong during the race and sure enough, we run out of gas. I thought that it just wasn't even worth trying there for a while. But we stayed after it and eventually we got back on the lead lap. The car was a good car. It was real difficult in traffic. Anybody who got behind cars, it was kind of difficult to pass. But if you could get up front, or in the top three or four, where there was good clean air on the nose of your car, your car handled better. On the inside line on that restart, I had good clean air and just got up on Jeff. We took advantage of 10 or 15 laps of just good hard running on some clean tires. But then somebody dropped something on the racetrack and it got real slick. They eventually threw the caution for that. Then we got back on the lead lap and came through there a little bit. We got up to 12th or 8th and had something else happen, I don't remember what. But we had a strong car. It was a race-winning car, but we didn't have enough to put it up there and stay there."
Are you still sore from when you crashed in practice?
"I was fine except for my neck. I stretched my neck a little bit when I hit the wall. Early in the race, it got sore. But we had enough cautions that I could chill out. Normally I use the headrest quite a bit at most racetracks we run at. But the car was so loose today that I really couldn't relax on the headrest at all. I really had to step on the wheel and work the car through the corner for most of the race."
Can you talk about today and what your dad's 50th birthday means to you?
"I hadn't really thought about is much until I heard it on the PA. It's kind of cool. It made me feel good to think about him being 50 today - even better now that we had a good run and I think we're 10th in driver points and 11th in owner points. So we've moved up. We've been running top 10 the last four weeks. We've got ourselves turned around a little bit. But it made me feel good. I didn't know what I was going to feel like when his birthday come around or when Fathers Day come around and things like that. I want to celebrate a little bit I think."
How will you celebrate?
"Oh, maybe go home and have a couple beers. Maybe pour one out like they do on the RAP videos, I don't know."
Are you looking forward to the next few races like Richmond and Charlotte where you run well?
"Yeah, I am - especially because we've improved in the points. We had three or four weeks there where we finished 36th or worse. So those two tracks, Richmond and Charlotte, we generally run well. I ain't going to guarantee a whole lot at Richmond because we struggled with the car at the fall race there last year. We tested at Lakeland and I think we have improved on our stuff for Richmond a little bit. I can't complain at all about Charlotte. We've ran great every time we've been there. I look forward to Charlotte and especially the Winston. Whether you finish last or first, you can enjoy yourself in that race."
Why did the track seem to change so much from Friday and Saturday?
"I'm not sure. I think it was the fact that we got enough rubber down on the racetrack there near the end of the race where most everybody was pretty comfortable. At the start of the race, my car was really loose. It had been loose all week. That's largely due to the tire deal. Goodyear has brought a harder tire to just about every race. And it's a huge improvement over last year when we had a different tire every week. It would confuse you more than anything. But this year we've been able to predict what the car's going to be like with the same tire. Places like here and Texas - places with similar asphalt, almost a marble-type surface where it's very smooth - some of the newer tracks that they've built over the past five years seem to be harder for the tire to get a hold of the racetrack surface. The older, grainier racetracks seem to grab the tire and you can just be more comfortable all together. Each time I came in and put on new tires, my car felt better than it did the previous run. But the end of the race, I was obviously too tight to contend with the No.24 and the No. 2. I felt like right there before that, we were fast enough to run with them. The track kind of came to us and then went beyond where we needed to be."
Is being consistent helping your team's outlook?
"Yeah, as long as be can consistently be consistent. We've got four good weeks in a row here. You've got to have good driving racecars. You've got to be competitive every week to run good. You can't just come in with an attitude and expect that to produce good runs. But when you run well, it does a lot for the team. These guys go back home and they soldier on the next car for the next week even harder. The more runs we can put under our belt that we're proud of, the better we feel about our team and the less questions we have about our team and our future. If you go out and finish 34th and crash every week, you wonder what you need to do to fix it - whether it's you or somebody else or what. We don't have that right now and hopefully we can continue to build on it and be consistent about being consistent."
-Team Monte Carlo