Phoenix: Winning driver press conference

DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO "The car was really good and I don't know....I just drove right up through there. It just gives you chills to have a car that capable of winning and that fast. I was just getting...

DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO

"The car was really good and I don't know....I just drove right up through there. It just gives you chills to have a car that capable of winning and that fast. I was just getting ground on those guys in the center of the corner. I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe them guys couldn't get their cars to drive as good as mine. Mine was perfect. It pushed real bad through the center but other guys must have been worse.

"It's really cool and satisfying I guess - it's a relief to come back and win after a bad week, but it's not what you want. You don't want to have a bad week and then a good week. Last week will still bother me. I made a personal error that cost us a lot of points. It's not a habit I want to continue or anything I want to become a habit. I thought those types of mistakes were in my past. But I guess you'll have those from time to time when you put yourself in a position of racing really hard with somebody. But we came in here with no idea the car was going to be as good as it was. We didn't come in here with Talladega confidence, if you know what I mean. We came in here thinking we might possibly have a good day. We had a good car here last year, but it wasn't as fast at the start of the race. We worked on that car to get it as good as it was at the end. Today, it was just flying. We went from 14th to the top five in no time. It was incredible."

ON HIS DISCUSSION WITH THE CREW ABOUT NOT COMING IN FOR TIRES

"Obviously I wasn't convinced. The thing about being in the pit box and being on top of that box is that you can see a lot more than the driver can see - and even how good the race car is. I might not think I've got as good a car in practice, but I'll come in there and they'll say it's good. And I'll say, 'Really? I didn't pass nobody or catch nobody. I didn't think it was that good.' And they'll say it's great. One thing I wasn't thinking about was how on a restart, the leader and the top three or four can get a straightaway in front of everybody. And that's hard to drive back to those guys even it you're starting 10th and you've got new tires. So that was one point. If they get out in front of us by a wide margin we might not get the caution we need with only 19 laps to go. We might not catch them.

"Jeff Gordon's car was terrible at the end. I was really surprised and impressed that he got a third place finish. I was disappointed that Kasey didn't get what he deserved. He had a good car. After one restart, Kasey was better than me. He got bottled up behind Jeff. I actually got into Kasey a little bit but we got is straightened out and we got going again and I passed him clean. But he had a good car. I was really hoping he would finish at least 2nd or 3rd. But he had some trouble at the end. It was a fun race. We argued and carried on but that's the way we ought to do it because we had a lot of success."

ON THE FINAL RESTART

"That's the good feeling. That's what you want to see. I was worried that with two to go, I could go in the corner and get loose or tight. You have an unknown of how much liquid was down in the corner or how they cleaned it up. Was cooling Jeff's tires down going to give him an opportunity to charge underneath me and give me some trouble for at least a half-lap or so? Anything can happen. You're sitting and sitting there on the back straightaway waiting for the restart. When we took off, I didn't get into Turn 1 good at all. I slowed down too much. I got on the gas and pushed off the corner. I thought he was going to say, 'car low'. I looked out the mirror and they were about five or 10 car lengths back. I just couldn't believe it. But Jeff's car was terrible at the end. I'm sure he was really disappointed. But he's a professional. To finish third, I don't think I could have done that."

IN VICTORY LANE, DID YOU THINK ABOUT TALLADEGA AND ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID?

"I was really scared that I might slip up because I have a lot of bad words in my vocabulary and so I'll will always from here on out be nervous about that. It's just a mistake. It's honest being human. Tony Sr. came up to me before I got out (of the car) and said, 'Now, don't cuss.' I was glad he reminded me because you get excited. Yeah, I will be worried. It's hard even when you're trying not to. Maybe that's when you do it more often -- when you're trying not to."

IF NOT FOR THE PENALTY, YOU'D BE IN 2ND PLACE ONLY 22 POINTS OUT

"Well, being in second still ain't first, so it doesn't really matter. I'm not going to dwell on that. It would be great exposure for my team and my sponsor if we do lose the championship -- we are trying our best to lose it by less than 25 points. That will give us all kinds of exposure, I guess, all throughout the winter - probably more so than winning the championship (laughter). We all have our secret agendas. But really, I don't worry about it too much. I don't feel any pressure going into these last two races. We've already had things like the penalty and the mistake I made last week. We've got our reasons for why, in the end, we lost the championship. All we can do is just race. We came here today and tried to win. We win. That's great. We go to the next race and do the same. Darlington and Homestead are not tracks I've excelled at. I'd love to win the championship, but it's going to be really hard to beat those guys. We've got to be realistic."

ON RACING JEFF GORDON AND THE REACTION OF THE FANS

"It's amazing to be racing Jeff. I have a lot of respect for him. We've known each other for a very long time. When he first started racing in the Cup Series against my dad, my dad introduced him to me on pit wall at North Wilksboro at some point. I think it was 1994. We didn't guarantee ourselves, but we knew there was a possibility of us racing each other one day. It's awesome to be in a race with him. He's one of the best. He's one of the drivers 200 years from now they'll look at in the history of NASCAR and he'll be in the top 10. To go out there and race with him is an honor. It's probably come to light to me more now than in the past because of all these guys who are retiring. You start to think about what an honor it was to share the track with Terry Labonte and Rusty Wallace over the last couple of years. How many more races will Jeff and I have before one of us is gone? To be able to pass him today and win this race is really means a lot to me. I'm sure he'd rather it have been the opposite. I don't think there's anybody else I'd rather beat. Coming to a shootout like that with the best car, I'd rather have him be the one in front of me."

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO YOU SAID YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A FARILY LARGE LEAD GOING INTO THE NEXT RACES, OTHERWISE YOU WOULDN'T HAVE A SHOT. DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY?

"Well, that would have been the best scenario for us. That was if we did falter like we have in the past at those two tracks, we'd have something to give up. Now, we can't really worry about that. We're not in that situation. We'll just run our race like we normally do. We'll race as hard as we can and get what we can get."

DO PEOPLE NEED TO GET THIS PENALTY THING GO BECAUSE YOU CAN ALWAYS PLAY THE WHAT-IF GAME

"It's not my place to tell anybody to let it go. But people are going to talk about it. What are you going to do? I should consider myself so lucky that people are concerned about it. I shouldn't really complain."

SOME PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO SEE AN INTENSE RIVALRY BETWEEN YOU AND JEFF GORDON. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?

"I would love to come to every race track and have it come down to a five lap shootout between me and Jeff. What you're asking for was easy to find 15 or 20 years ago in the sport. But with the diversity you have amongst the whole field now, it's anybody's race every week. You can't really manifest a rivalry with anybody. Jeff don't run up front every week and neither do I. It's hard to manufacturer a rivalry - even if we wanted one - that the fans could enjoy. We can't attract a rivalry when me and him aren't racing for the lead every week. With what you have now in the sport you have guys you don't like. But even with the way things are right now you're not going to do enough to spark a rivalry with them."

WITH TWO RACES LEFT, YOU ARE IN POSITION TO HAVE A SHOT AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP

"Being 47 points back sounds a lot better than ninety-something. We were really looking bad there when we were 125 points out after Martinsville - even with what happened in Atlanta, we gained. We've got an opportunity but I'm not going to get all worked up over it. We're just going to try to race smart and finish good. It's not just racing Kurt anymore.The points race is too difficult to worry about. There is too much going on. So we'll just race each lap at Darlington and get out of there. We'll know after Darlington what kind of opportunity we've got."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace