DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (Qualified 2nd) "The car was there. I just made a little bit of a mistake getting down into one. I overdrove it just a little bit. But, it's a great car. They put a lot of effort into...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (Qualified 2nd)
"The car was there. I just made a little bit of a mistake getting down into one. I overdrove it just a little bit. But, it's a great car. They put a lot of effort into this piece. It's really a pleasure to drive it. I should have run just a little bit faster, but that's pretty decent.
"I'm the only drive to get two top fives here last year, so I feel real confident about this weekend."
ARE YOU SURPRISED YOUR TEAM IS WHERE IT'S AT RIGHT NOW?
"I'm not really surprised with where the team is. I'm surprised where I'm at.
"I know the team is capable of doing this. We've had pretty good cars. We'll just have to see how the midpoint of the season does for us last year, where we faltered last year. We came on strong again at the end of the last season. It was in the middle point of the season - Pocono and places like that - where it was kind of hit and miss. We were kind of good and bad there."
IS YOUR MINDSET DIFFERENT THAN IT HAS BEEN IN THE PAST?
"I'm real dedicated to trying to gain points this year...Last year or any other year, for that matter - we just kind of raced one week after the other. I think the falter there is that you don't prepare well enough for the duration of four or five weeks in a row - what that can do to your energy level and your drive and determination. You open the door on each Thursday and Friday, on each new weekend, and the preparation is just not there. I think this year - myself personally and I believe the rest of the team - I think there is a lot of drive and determination amongst all of us. You don't want to be accused of not ever wanting it enough in the past. But, it seems like we had to step up to the challenge. We're stepping up the determination every year. I'm really enjoying the driving part. We're running better. It's more enjoyable on my end and it's also more enjoyable on each of the crewmembers' ends to have good finishes and something to be glad to come home to, to talk about with your wife or whatever, and look forward to the next Monday at work and all that. It's a little easier on us than it has been in the past and that might have a lot to do with it, too."
HOW DID YOUR WEEK GO AFTER LAST WEEK?
"We kept a close watch on all of the traffic on the internet...and just the gist of the press's opinion and the public opinion. It's been pretty interesting. It's been a lot of fun to be at the head of that or one of the key figures involved in such an explosion, if you will. As I told Tony [Eury] Sr., win or lose, black flag or not, I felt really proud of my effort personally - what I've done and what I saw and what I was accomplishing inside the car. It was something that gave me emotions that I haven't experienced too often in this sport. What I saw my team accomplished and where we were at the end of the day after all that, I was happy for them, too.
"With what I saw, I felt like it was 50-50. There were a lot of polls and what-not - it seemed to all be 50-50. But, it was kind of fun and amusing at the same time. You sit there and you smile at the face of jealousy and envy and move on. There are some people that wrote columns that defended what we accomplished, yet their argument was with NASCAR and not necessarily with me or an individual. Those were interesting and definitely a thought-out, well-written column would have covered all the bases. Some were just one extreme or the other. You can't really credit either one of them on either account. But, it was fun. It was cool. I knew Monday morning it was going to be an interesting week, but it was fun. I had a good time each day getting a new article or somebody else wondered if I had read this or read that."