DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "It was a real good lap. I was surprised we were that quick. We ran maybe a .50 for something like that in practice and I was hoping just to back that up and get us a good top five ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"It was a real good lap. I was surprised we were that quick. We ran maybe a .50 for something like that in practice and I was hoping just to back that up and get us a good top five starting spot. I'm excited and real happy about the pole. We got a spot in the Bud Shootout and that's kind of important to me."
DID YOU KNOW THAT WAS A GOOD RUN?
"I thought Jimmie (Johnson) and maybe a couple more would be able to do that. Me and Jimmie was so close to beating the time. It's a couple tenths faster than those guys, but it's not really that hard to get that good of a lap in that comfortable of a car. Honestly, I thought it was more like a .50 or a .60. It's hard when you've got guys like Jimmie (Johnson) and Ryan (Newman) out there qualifying as fast as they are every week, it's a tough competition trying to get a pole. Those guys can lay down some good laps and get some good qualifying set-ups. I'm real proud to be able to beat them."
ON THE CONCUSSION HE SUFFERED EARLIER IN THE SEASON
"I really didn't expect to make it such a big deal talking about it with a couple of reporters in my truck. They wanted to know why we hadn't had such a great season so far. We were picked early in the season to be a championship team and they wanted to know why we haven't done that. It's kind of been a carbon copy of the last two seasons. We've run good and we've run bad. We had a string of six or seven races where we run poorly and then we'd pick it up but we just can't seem to keep it going the entire season.
"This year coming in, it felt like we were going to be able to challenge for the championship. We had the crash in California and it set me back. I've had concussions before and they lasted for a couple days. But the affects of that one just seemed to linger for a little bit longer than that. It didn't affect my driving, but it just took me a while to communicate again with Tony Jr. and the guys and to get my confidence back up. I wasn't sure how bad it was bothering me on the racetrack, I just knew what I was feeling as a normal person when I go home at night and going about day to day activities and I could tell there was a little something off. I talked to several people and I was sure to make my own decision on whether to do anything different or whether I should be too worried about it. It was my decision; it's really not anybody else's.
"I talked to Dale Jarrett and a few other drivers and a few doctors about it. With a concussion, there isn't really anything you can to do heal it. You just have to kind of ride it out. It's a shame - not so much that I suffered the injury - it's a shame what it did to the season for us. It took us out of an opportunity to have a good season. It was about six races there where we just didn't get back on track until after Daytona at the middle of the season. It was just too late."
DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD THE CONCUSSION OR DID THE DOCTORS HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT YOU HAD IT?
"My first concussion in the Busch Series - the first race I ran at Daytona - we flipped the car on the back straightaway. You didn't know right away. I went back to the shop and it was like Tuesday of that week when I was underneath the dash of the car doing laying on my back some wiring and I got dizzy. The cars are on casters in the shop so you can move them around with ease. I felt like somebody was spinning the car around. That's a symptom of a concussion. Everything's okay until you lay on your back or try to sit up real fast.
"A doctor can look at you all day long and not see a problem. But it's something that's hard to explain. You just get a little sick to your stomach sometimes and get a little nauseous sometimes. I didn't need a doctor to tell me. I knew right away. That was the hardest hit I'd ever had. Anytime you hit the wall you get a concussion. And on a level of severity, that was probably the worst."
DO YOU THINK YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT THIS WILL HELP TO FURTHER NASCAR AND THEIR MEDICAL POLICIES
"If there was a downside to keeping this a secret, that was it. I did not do NASCAR any justice by keeping it a secret from them. I've had one or two concussions before. It wasn't something that was necessary to tell anybody. It wasn't so severe that I was a danger to myself or any other drivers. It wasn't that severe of an in injury. It was a concussion where you're just a little dizzy. I could still drive a car and I could still feel everything that I needed to feel but it was hard to tell Tony Jr. what to do to the car. It was just hard for me to think of what I needed to tell him.
"Performance-wise, what suffered was just a lack of communication. I feel really bad. I kept it a secret because I was thinking of myself. Looking at Steve Park's situation and what he was going through. His was a more severe injury but he's having to deal with so many people putting him down and questioning whether he was all right or not. I didn't want to have to deal with that - like if you had a bad run was that why? Or is it the car? I didn't want to put up with that. I didn't want to have to deal with that so I didn't.
The downside to that is that NASCAR is probably going to catch some (trouble) about it but I don't think that's necessary. It just took the wind out of our sails for about six weeks. The only repercussion from it was that we didn't get the season (performance) that we wanted this year. NASCAR is not really at fault because there wasn't anything physically or appearance-wise that they could see or that you could see, that was wrong with me. I talked to Dr. Petty and a few other doctors - a personal doctor of mine and whatnot, there's really nothing you can do. There's really no difference in me after the incident. I tried to avoid the same thing NASCAR's going to get from it and that's scrutiny and criticism.
HAS NASCAR TALKED TO YOU ABOUT THIS?
"No, I haven't talked to them personally. I'm sure I'll talk to them. But I know now I didn't handle it quite as good as I could have or as well as I could have for the good of NASCAR. I handled it for the good of me. Maybe that wasn't the way to do it. But it's kind of a dead issue now because it's all over with."
CAN DRIVERS FOOL THE DOCTORS ABOUT THIS?
"Well on that particular day, I thought I broke my ankle in the crash. So I was more concerned about that than anything. Just the fact of having a fracture of any kind can take you out of the race car. My main concern was that my leg or my ribs weren't broken. If you've never had a concussion, it doesn't affect you all day - only in certain situations. It can bother you a little bit when you're trying to go to sleep at night because it kind of makes you sick to your stomach.
"There was nothing nobody could do about it. What good was bringing it up going to do me? Leave me by myself and let me get better. That's how I handled. I kind of hate that I even brought it up now. I was kind of at a loss explaining our season and how it was. That's why we've had a bad season."
WITH THAT BEHIND YOU, CAN YOU PUT YOURSELF IN CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENTION FOR NEXT SEASON?
"That's definitely what you do. I don't think you can go out there and say we can try to build on the future. There's no building on the future. Technology changes week to week and you just pick up on it. Now we can go out there and just go for the win. There's nothing to be lost and everything to be gained. I can change how I drive - my style, my assertiveness, my aggressiveness - and the team can change certain things. We can just really let loose here and take a lot of chances. Maybe by the end of the season, we'll have a better idea of how to be a points racing team. I definitely feel like I can be a lot better as a driver in the long haul - week to week to week. A lot of times you go five or ten races and you're doing well in the points and then there is that one lap where you race somebody too hard and take yourself out of the race and lose a lot of points. So you have to be well disciplined to be a points racer. There's guys out here that are points racers and there's guys out here that just race. I think I've just been one of those guys that's just raced. It's exciting and it's good to be at it like that, but to win a points championship you've got to be conservative at times. You've got to know when's a good time to go and when not to. This is our third year we've had that opportunity, so hopefully we'll get it right."
-team monte carlo-