DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Winner ON TODAY'S RACE "It was awesome and overwhelming to win here. One thing that sounds out when you go to the other side of the country to race is that nothing less than a victory...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Winner
ON TODAY'S RACE "It was awesome and overwhelming to win here. One thing that sounds out when you go to the other side of the country to race is that nothing less than a victory is satisfying. You want to win just because of what you put into it - the travel and how far the crew has come to race here. When I came here as a rookie, that was the big deal. If we ran second, it was so disappointing because we had such a far ride back home. That was the first thing that came into my mind today.
"Last year, we started off good and qualified third. We led a lot of laps. But I was running along there and we ran out of gas. Our fuel mileage guess was wrong. So we talked about that ever since. This is a track that I like to run on mainly because my car drives like it drives. The first year I ran here I was in traffic all day and the car didn't like the race track because it was flat and I just couldn't get around it. The next year Tony (Eury) and the crew had really worked learning more about the flat track program. It was evident in how we ran.
"We came in here this weekend and we weren't quite as strong as we expected to be in qualifying. But when the race started I just went right up through there. We had some mistakes on pit road that might have cost us a few spots. But I got back by those people and there at the end we didn't have too many mistakes in pit road. They concentrated harder. But it was fun. We raced real hard with everybody. If we didn't hit them, we came real close to hitting them."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN ON A TRACK WHERE YOUR FATHER HAS WON? "I never came here before. It was just too far from home to go. I wanted to stay home. But we raced in the Busch Series here and ran second to Jeff Gordon. We won a championship here that day. That was a special day and I have a lot of pictures from that day when we drove the Superman car and my dad was here to celebrate my championship with me. That was just a real great day.
"I've got a lot of fond memories of this place and I guess that drives you a little bit to win here. I've always watched races that my dad was in and he would struggle to really be dominant here where he could be dominant at other race tracks. He was a top 10 car here, but that was the best he could do. And so when he won here that was a big accomplishment for him. I remember that day just like it was yesterday. It's cool to come in here and win and not have to struggle here. So it's great to come here to know that this is a track where we expect to run good. The more tracks like that we can get in our back pocket, the better."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO WIN ON A TRACK OTHER THAN A RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACK? "It doesn't really mean a lot to me one way or the other. A win is a win. Being in Victory Lane is fun. A trophy is a trophy and adding one more to the pile is all the better. Today was the best win of my career in a few ways. One was seeing the expression of my guys when I came into Victory Lane. They had been happy before about winning, but they hadn't worked hard until this year. This year, every single one of them put in their heart and soul into this team to make the team better.
"We'd get so upset sometimes when we didn't run good because you weren't getting what you expected out of all your people. Right now, I feel like there isn't a person on this team that isn't working as hard as the next guy. So coming into Victory Lane and seeing their faces was a big reward for me because I was a part of it.
"I go to the shop just about every day. I don't go over there to see what they're doing or what's next, I go over there because I've got friends there. That's something I've never had before. Now I've got a relationship with 99 percent of the employees at that shop. That's the most I can say. When you win races, you feel like you've all done it together.
You don't have a chip on your shoulder with one guy. We're all pretty proud of ourselves and of each other. It means a lot. It's just neat being in the situation I'm in. We've got a unique team with me driving the car and my relationship with Teresa (Earnhardt) and whatnot and Tony (Eury) being my dad's best friend for so many years. We've got a unique situation. I feel real fortunate to have the success we're having and try not to take that for granted. Today was a day that sunk in more than any other day."
ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOR NEXT YEAR AND HOW THE TEAM IS COMING TOGETHER "The team is really getting better and better. We seem to be growing more comfortable. We stumble a little bit under pressure, not only just driving in races and being in the front and trying to make good pit stops, but we've got a high profile team and a high profile sponsor. If we overcome the pressure from that, we're doing a good job. I feel like the team is getting better and that we can compete next year for the championship. The only thing I don't like about Winston Cup racing right now that could hamper my ability to be as competitive next year is loyalty. I feel like I have a pretty good group of guys and if they maintain their strong bond and loyalty for what we're trying to accomplish, then we can step it up again and again each year. I hope everybody understands the opportunities we have and that they stick around to make it happen."
BECAUSE YOU ARE SO POPULAR, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU PUT TOGETHER FIVE OR SIX WINS IN A ROW? "Hopefully it wouldn't be all that different. Hopefully it wouldn't be like it was when Waltrip won so many races he got booed to death. That was tough to even listen to a guy getting booed as hard as he did. I think the fans cheer for you - not because you win or lose, but because of who you are and your attitude. So winning six in a row, or finishing last for six times in a row - I don't know if it would change because we have a genuine fan base."
TONY EURY SR. , CREW CHIEF, NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"The people we had on our team last year, we struggled and just had a hard time on pit road. We lost I don't know how many races on pit road. So over the winter we decided we were going to run for the championship. This was our fourth year, and it was time to go run for it, and our pit crew was holding us back so we made changes on pit road. You know, we still don't have it fixed. It's a lot better than it was, but we still don't have it fixed. We had problems today. It's just hard to get people that can perform under pressure. They can do it at home fine and not have any problems, but they come to the racetrack and the pressures there and it's just hard for them to perform. It's hard to find those people that can do that. We worked real hard on that, and I think we've got the group of people that can do it, we've just got to get them calmed down. The guys are a great team as far as building racecars, they build great racecars and they're not afraid to work."
IS DALE JR. MORE MOTIVATED THAN LAST YEAR? "I don't know that he's really any different than he was last year. Naturally when a guy's got a better car to drive, he's going to be a little more pumped up. I think this year he's had a lot better cars to drive, we build a lot better cars, and the engine shop's building better engines, and just the total package is better. We've got a better body style this year and more downforce, and when you're running up front and you've got a chance at winning the championship, it changes your frame of mind and I think that's all it is."