Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Scores Fifth Top-Five Finish Of Season In Rain-Shortened 3M Performance 400 Four Monte Carlo Ss Drivers Claim Top-10 Finishes; Jimmie Johnson Maintains Driver Point Standings Lead; Chevrolet Holds Lead In Manufacturers' ...
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Scores Fifth Top-Five Finish Of Season In Rain-Shortened 3M Performance 400
Four Monte Carlo Ss Drivers Claim Top-10 Finishes; Jimmie Johnson Maintains Driver Point Standings Lead; Chevrolet Holds Lead In Manufacturers' Standings
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS finished third in the rain-shortened 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The scheduled 200-lap race was declared an official finish at the conclusion of the 129th lap when heavy rain hit the area.
The scheduled start of the race was delayed almost one hour due to rain and the race was slowed by three cautions due to rain prior to the final downpour that ended the race.
In addition to Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Monte Carlo SS, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS and Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Reese's/GM Goodwrench Monte Carlo SS scored top-10s, finishing sixth, eighth and 10th respectively.
Johnson remains firmly atop the NASCAR Nextel Cup driver standings, 74 points ahead of second place Matt Kennseth (Ford).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS
Have you ever had a stranger third-place finish than today? "Yeah, I'm sure I have. This really ain't all that strange. We had a great car. On that run right there we weren't going to end up with a win but we had a car earlier that was good enough to win. I asked them to tighten it up and they tightened it up, but it is late and we got a lot of things to get done, get home and get to doin so we'll take a third place. I'm real happy. I've never really had a good car here, that good anyway, so I'm really excited about coming back here."
Talk about your race:
"We had a real good car all weekend. I was real happy with how the car ran in practice and when the race started it was not quite as good as it was in practice, but really close. We were able to get in the lead a little bit and race a little bit and have some fun with Jeff and pass each other a little bit. Had fun with a bunch of guys out there. I never really had a car that good here before so that was really a kind of personal victory for me and the team and Tony Jr. especially. So we really look forward to coming back here and going to Chicago and California and those places. We're sort of, maybe this is a sign that we're sort of getting back into the ballpark in these types of racetracks. It's really a great thing and aside from having a third-place finish, that's really the one thing the one thing that stick out for me."
Was this race the hurdle you had to get past?
"Yeah it was. Is this working? My ears are messed up. I got a sinus infection so I can't hear. We've been trying to stay positive all throughout the last 18 to 20 months. You hope that you can turn things around when you turn things around. It really feels good for me. It's a great little moral victory for me and Jr. to have a good car here at a track like that we struggled on. This track is very similar to lot of the tracks in the Nextel Cup. We struggled on all of them. We had a good car the first three-quarters of what we ran today, that last run right there I asked them to tighten it up too much so I didn't have the best car there at the end. Carl (Edwards) had a real good car. The No. 9 car (Kasey Kahne) was quick. It was really close between them two. We were sort of in the mix there up until that last stop."
Did you feel like you could have got the car back to where it was? "Absolutely. We were really, really fast at the start of the race. On the scuff tires that we had to start the race on. We put on stickers and it freed it up a little bit. I was just thinking you know, a small adjustment. We added a half-pound (psi) in the right front and about a half a turn away in the right rear and I wanted that back out. I was still a third-place car right there; I could run, if I really hit it right I could run what those guys in front of me were running. For the most part I was a tenth off. I just needed to take that adjustment back out and just deal with the loose end and loose off I had. Because we were pretty fast before I made that adjustment."
How did you improve so much this year?
"I think it just has a lot to do with just working with the team I've got this year. We, as a company, improved on these tracks last year. I ran eighth here and we won at Chicago. We started out this season sort of working around those type of setups last year that worked really good. I think the combination of me and Tony Jr. works really good and I think it's just natural improvement throughout the team. We haven't really concentrated more on these sort of tracks, we've just sort of been concentrating on whatever we faced each date. I guess we just got a little bit overall better as a team."
Are you surprised we got as far as we did because of the weather?
"Yeah, I did."
What do you guys see out of Kahne in this type of track?
"Them and Mike Ford worked on that car with Bill Elliott; they sort of hit it off on a lot of the tracks like this. They had a string there where Bill was winning some races and I think the notes and technology they were using at that time carried over. Cause they've won with basically three different guys, crew chief and car. Kasey's gotta be really good but I think they got sort of a good handle on what you need under the car for the setup at tracks like this."
CHAD KNAUS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS
On Jimmie's car today:
"We definitely needed to make it a lot better for sure. We didn't have the car we needed. But it is a brand new race car and we are still trying to learn the tendencies of the vehicle. It was a good day for us, to come out of here with a top-10, another feather in the cap from that standpoint. We still didn't have the speed that we needed at this point in the season.
On what was learned with new car for future races:
"We may take this car to Chicago. Since we didn't get to run the full event here, you have to kind of throw away what you thought you may have learned or didn't learn or whatever and start over with an actual full blown race. So we are going to go back home and get ready to go to Sonoma. We have a great car going to Sonoma; I am really excited about it. We have Daytona coming up and have the same race car we won with at Talladega so I am very very excited and very optimistic about it."
On race strategy with impending bad weather:
"We knew there was rain coming and we knew it was going to be either broken up or shortened, we weren't exactly sure how it was going to play out. We were watching it. We took two tires on the second to last pit stop to try and maintain some track position just in case the rain came at that stint. The rain didn't show up then and fortunately, we went about 20 laps before the next caution came out when everyone was going to have to come in for tires. That really worked out ok for us to solidify our top-10 finish."
On how hard everyone raced one another from the drop of the green flag:
"Everyone knew the weather was coming, When it starts to rain an intermittent rain like that, it becomes a series of sprint races combined and that is kind of what it was."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS
What happened on the race track and how tough is this for you?
"It's not what we wanted, by any means. I just got clipped in the left rear. It wasn't anything intentional, by any means. Jeff (Green) was a little eager probably. We weren't even really running that hard. We were just kind of taking our time. Every time it got two-wide it gave Jeff a run. Jeff pulled up beside me while under caution and kind of asked if everything was all right and I told him we're cool. Jeff's a great guy. He and I have always got along good. That was just racing. It's no big deal."
We saw you swinging the hammer. Is the shoulder okay? "Man, I was sitting there talking with the guys. Can you imagine what the bill for J.D. Gibbs (president, Joe Gibbs Racing) is going to be when he gets an invoice from Greg Zipadelli (crew chief) and myself for fabrication work? I mean, our hourly rates are not cheap. It's fine. I'll be honest. I feel really good. I don't feel good about the day, obviously, but physically I feel great. Just look forward to Sonoma next week."
JEFF GREEN, NO. 66 BEST BUY CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS
On running into Tony Stewart:
"I apologized. I mean, I don't drive that way. I just got in a little over my head; my car pushed and Tony held his line. I got to admit to him, I hate it. I wouldn't do that to anybody and Tony's a good friend of mine and I know he's racing for that championship and that top 10. Our Best Buy Chevy was really good at that point and I just got a little eager, I guess. I just want to apologize to those guys on that No. 20 car; they deserve better. My guys do to, I guess I just made a mistake today."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CINCULAR WIRELESS MONTE CARLO SS:
"I think we had a better car than the finish showed. We weren't up in the order as high as we could have been I think, but we got a pretty decent finish. We knew the rain was all around, it was so hard to figure it out because it would rain, then quit, then rain. The radar didn't match at all what was happening. It was tough to figure out exactly what to do. Some guys took two tires, some guys took four tires, it just wasn't worth the gamble to us."
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
"I was very happy with the performance. Obviously we fell back there to eighth and some guys did some different pit strategies. We stayed on four tires all day and that did us a little bit on the short-term race and short distances in the rain. Eighth, hey. The way things have been going for us right now I'm happy with eighth."
What's it like racing the weather too?
"You know it's coming. The guys are great at reading the radar and telling you what's going on. You've got to be careful playing it too much because that's when all of a sudden the skies clear and it misses you. So we were playing the race and just trying to do our best and have the best pit stops; the best car we could out there. It came a little earlier than we were hoping and we raced like finish. The weather's always a challenge in the sense that you're racing against time instead of knowing how many laps you have left."
On Jimmie Johnson going three wide on you:
"I'll definitely talk to him about it. I didn't understand why the second he got a chance to take me three wide when I was trying to pass somebody. We had a good car and we were taking our time, making some passes and he got inside me, made it three wide twice. I just didn't think it was necessary at the time and I was just asking for him to give me a little bit of a break and explain to me what was going on."
In the booth they were critical of the guy who allowed him to do that:
"If we'd have been racing towards the end I would have never said a word. We were early in the race; I had a great car at the time. I had a better car than Jimmie at the time. Later when we got strung out, and later he had a little bit better car than I did, he got inside me and I let him go. That's typically the way that we race and I just feel that Jimmie was being a little bit over-aggressive at that point earlier."
It usually works pretty well between you two.
"It happens. We're competitors. We're going to race hard. There's times when we race one another harder than we should but I like to keep it down to when we're racing for position towards the end of the race. Jimmie and I race great together. We never have any issues but I definitely did say something on the radio."
On knowing how team has improved by this performance at Michigan:
"This has been a good track for us in the past, it's just the last couple times we've been here. This is definitely a step up. I feel the things that we've been working on. that this would be a track that we would really be able to see if it's paying off for us. Obviously it has been paying off. We still have some more to learn, obviously. I feel like the No. 9 was the best car. He came back and ended up winning the race but I feel like we were a top five car but unfortunately we weren't in the top five but we were close to it."
What was better this time around?
"The car was working the way it should - comfortable, fast. We qualified good and we were able to stay up front and race with guys. Communication has been fantastic. Even when we're not running good communication's been good. It's just really trying for the guys to figure out the geometry and mass that goes into running these new setups and making sure they really feel what I'm looking for as well."