DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 3rd - Post-race press conference highlights: "My car was good. We guessed on the set-up. We ran a little bit of race trim in qualifying practice (Friday) and kind of had an...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 3rd - Post-race press conference highlights:
"My car was good. We guessed on the set-up. We ran a little bit of race trim in qualifying practice (Friday) and kind of had an idea of what we needed to run. And the car was pretty good all day. We needed to loosen it up in the center and tighten it up on the exit and we could never really get that one little adjustment we needed. But it was fun. We didn't have a good enough car for a top five finish and I'm pretty happy about that."
ON THIS BEING A HUGE CONTRAST FROM THE LAST TIME YOU RACED HERE WITH YOUR BURN INJURIES
"Yeah, we came here the last time and everybody knows that story. But we really ran very close to the same set up. The car was just better for some reason. We worked on a few things and tried a few other things. It was really nothing special. I don't want to speculate, but Martin (Truex Jr.) was practicing and Matt (Kenseth) came over to me and said Martin was really overdriving the car and he had no business being out there (Kenseth, who was also participating in the press conference said: "I never said that". Both drivers laughed). No, he didn't say that. But he was driving the car real, real hard and they went in a totally different direction with the set-up. And when I got in the car to race, I was way, way too tight. I don't know whether it was just Martin's inexperience or what. Luckily we didn't have too much practice this weekend. We seem to do real good in that situation when nobody else can get a chance to figure their car out because most of the time or sometimes we're not good at figuring it out anyway - no matter how much practice we have. So we got to start on an even playing field this weekend. It was fun."
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN YOU CAME OUT OF THE PITS WITH MICHAEL WALTRIP? DID YOU TRY TO SIGNAL TO HIM TO GET OUT OF THE WAY?
"Yeah, I was waving at him. I was really upset about it. He got two tires. We came off pit road side-by-side. He drove the car all the way up to the yellow line as if I wasn't even there. And then went in the corner. I thought he was trying give me the spot.
"And then when we got to the center of the corner and he'd still be there and I'd about wreck into the side of him. That happened for three or four laps. I came out right behind Matt (Kenseth) and I was a straightaway behind him when I got by the No. 15 (Waltrip) finally. So I was just trying to figure out where he was getting his team orders from because whoever was giving them to him needs a new check. I think we need to give him a check. Whoever they're working for, we need to see where they're getting their kickback. I was upset about it. I'm sure Michael didn't mean anything by it. I'm sure he was just trying to race and do what you do. His car was really loose it seemed. And he was just trying to go and I needed a little help there and I expected to get a little and I didn't get any."
HOW WORRIED ARE YOU ABOUT SOMEBODY OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 10 TAKING DRIVERS OUT? WE SAW THAT TODAY WITH TONY STEWART AND JEREMY MAYFIELD AND IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU AS WELL
"It depends on who you race with. The people I was around today raced me with maybe a minimal amount of more respect than I normally get. Some guys aren't going to change. You could paint these walls black and there are some guys that wouldn't know the difference. But some of the guys out there know what's going on. They know who is in the Chase and I think they give you respect for that, I guess. Some guys don't. >From car to car, I think the answer to that question is going to be different."
WAS THE RACING MORE INTENSE TODAY?
"No. In your brain it was more intense but the actual actions you were doing weren't more intense if that makes any sense. I didn't see guys going into the corner with life or death intentions on making a pass. Everybody seemed to be smart. One of the things I saw was that guys wanted to be around at the end of the race. I saw a lot more of that with guys giving a lot more room maybe. But there was some hard racing at times. I think you ran harder for some reason. You really, really pushed your equipment when you were, say when you were in single file. You really pushed your equipment hard than you want to or anticipate doing. My car laid on the rev chip on the front straightaway 300 times today. So we pushed our equipment. We had a high gear to make the motor turn. We took risks with that. I think they did the same thing on the race track. Now the racing is always intense for me, but it wasn't any more than usual."
SINCE THERE WERE SO FEW CAUTIONS, DID YOU MAKE A LOT OF RADICAL ADJUSTMENT OR JUST DO MINOR STUFF LIKE YOU NORMALLY DO?
"We didn't make any major adjustment all day. We started the race out and the car was pretty good. I was a little tight in the center. We took a round of bite out, but that didn't work. We put it back in. We softened the spring rates across the front on the tires on the next stop. That helped a lot. That's when I took the lead from Kurt (Busch). I got a little bit too loose on the exit of the corner after that so we made some more adjustments and at that time I don't know exactly what they did. I think (Tony Eury) Jr. dropped a track bar down a half-round round and put a half-pound in the right front for the last adjustment. So that's not really typically a lot. The car started out so good. I told them it was small stuff we needed and not to go to far and that they would have an angry race car driver. So they took it easy and we got the car a little bitter and a little better and it was just not quite good enough to beat Kurt (Busch). He had an awesome car. I think we would have had to come in here and change the springs and shocks to beat him."
IS THIS LIKE A HURDLES RACE WHERE YOU GUYS HAVE GOT 10 HURDLES BETWEEN YOU AND THE FINISH LINE AND YOU GOT OVER ONE TODAY, BUT A COUPLE OF GUYS DIDN'T?
"That would be a perfect analogy. If you were to use that, I would agree with it. The way I look at it is that you've got to go every week and try to get what you can as an end result. If your car is a 20th place car, you've got to try to muscle it up to maybe just outside of the top 10, but you can't just take the risk of wrecking. You can't get involved in crashes or get cut tires. You've got to try to minimize all the mistakes you can on pit road. Everything has to be minimal. Every lap you're going to be a lot more nervous I think now than you were before. Is this the lap where the motor blows or a tire comes apart? You've seen so many more motor and tire failures this year than we normally see and you really are curious about it. It's almost as expected as a debris caution with 25 laps to go (laughs). But I was really worried about starting off the Chase with a poor finish, but I'm really happy today to be able to say that we started it off well. Hopefully it continues to catapult us week after week with good finishes."
WITH THE WAY THE NO. 8 HAS RUN THE LAST FEW WEEKS, IS YOUR CONFIDENCE STARTING TO GROW THAT YOU CAN WIN THIS THING?
"Yeah, I guess it's starting to grow. It started to grow right at the Bristol win. When my legs weren't feeling too good, I really didn't want to be in the race car.
"That kind of worried me a little bit. I had this amazing determination and drive at the start of the year. I was just focused and we were getting the results and the finishes and we were leading the points. Then we went to Pocono and places like that. Those places really drain the determination and drive right out of you. But we got though the summer and then went back to Bristol and won that race. We had such a good weekend winning the Busch race and then the Cup race, it was instantly a huge jump in confidence. We went to California and I expected us to run poorly there. But right in the middle of the race we found something to help the car. That helps. I haven't forgotten about that. Our run at Richmond last week was inspirational to the team and to everyone that we're trying hard. I've gotten that drive back - that fire that I had at the start of the year that I've definitely going to have to have to win the championship. It's there when it's fun and when I get along with the people I'm working with. When they're a pain in the ass and making my life miserable, I get pissed off. So that's how things work. When things are good that's how it happens. And when things go bad, that's a result of it. But I think we're in a streak where we're going to finish this season out pretty spectacularly and hopefully with the championship. I really feel like we can win it."
DID YOU MAKE CHANGES AND TAKE RISKS TO TRY TO WIN THIS RACE, OR BECAUSE OF THE POINTS? DOES THIS CHANGE YOUR APPROACH?
"Yeah, I was saying earlier outside - the guy asked me if we were conservative today - and we were conservative with our changes. We didn't want to go too far and turn a third place car into a 10th place car in a matter of seconds. Maybe we could just adjust it to make it a second place car or a fourth place car. I'd rather do that than make a major mistake. We were conservative in what we changed and how we thought toward changes and toward the race track changing. We were conservative in those aspects, but on the race track we ran hard and hard and hard every lap and every corner and every entry. We were just really driving hard. That was one thing that was different today was just the pace. Normally when we start 500 mile races, you'll run hard for three or four laps and see what you've got and get what spots you can while you can get them until the last 100 miles. And then everybody knows what kind of car they've got. If it's good, they run good. If it's bad, they just ride it out until they can make it better. But it's only those last 100 miles when you see that 110 percent from all the drivers and everyone's driving hard and driving in the corner over everyone's head and stuff.
"We saw that every lap today from where I was at. So I think that's the difference. We were conservative on pit road and we took it easy. We were trying to be real smart not to make too many big mistakes or changes and get out of hand. We took four tires every time no matter what. That was our pit strategy. We never took two (tires). We took gas one time. But on the race track, it was intense racing."
WAS THAT 110 PERCENT FROM THE TOP 10 DRIVERS OR FROM EVERYBODY?
"That's a loaded question. But the guys out of the running were racing hard. Even the guys, like Jamie, was racing hard. He wanted to get a good finish. Dale Jarrett at one point was racing so hard. I thought wow, he really wanted a good finish before the end of the season. They want to be up there among the top. They want to win races. If a guy who is not in the Chase wins the race, that's a pretty big deal."
WAS THERE TALK AMONG THE GUYS, DRIVER TO DRIVER, BEFORE THIS RACE AS TO HOW EVERYONE WOULD RACE?
"I don't think you'll ever see the day when we and Matt (Kenseth) would sit down and tell each other our strategies of how we're each going to drive it. I don't think you'll ever see that. We don't talk racing. The last thing I want to talk to Matt Kenseth about is racing unless it's just five minutes after the race and that's the end of it. Maybe the No. 48 and the No. 24 do, or will, especially at Talladega. They'll want to get it clear with each other that they need each other's help and they'd better give it to each other. If it were me, that's what I'd be doing."
IF YOU LOOK AT THE STATS, ABOUT TWO OF THE 10 RACES IN THE CHASE ARE BAD ONES FOR EACH DRIVER. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ODDS ARE THAT THE GUY WHO WINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS THE GUY WHO HAS NO RACES LIKE THAT OUT OF THE LAST 10?
"The odds are great. I think the guy who wins the championship is going to finish inside the top 20 at every one of the 10 races. That's what I believe. I believe that's how to win the championship. I think that's what'll happen."
OF ALL THE 10 RACES IN THE CHASE, WHERE DID THIS ONE RANK IN IMPORTANCE TO YOU?
"I expected to come here this weekend and get a top 10. A top five would be a bonus so I'm real happy today. But I thought we could run 7th, 8th, 9th, or 10th."