Dale Earnhardt Jr. Scores First Win of the Season While Drivers Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick Follow in 2nd and 3rd to Give Monte Carlo SS a Top-Three Sweep of the Crown Royal 400 Chevrolet Scores 27th Modern Era Win (1972-Present) at ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Scores First Win of the Season While Drivers Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick Follow in 2nd and 3rd to Give Monte Carlo SS a Top-Three Sweep of the Crown Royal 400
Chevrolet Scores 27th Modern Era Win (1972-Present) at Richmond International Raceway; Jimmie Johnson Sits Atop the Point Standings with Six Team Chevy Drivers in the Top 10; Chevrolet Extends Lead in Manufacturers' Cup Chase
Richmond, VA - Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS captured his first win of the season at the Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Round 10 on the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series tour.
Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick captured 2nd and 3rd, respectively to give Chevrolet the top three finishing spots on the .75-mile short track.
Chevrolet has now won 27 times at Richmond International Raceway in the Modern Era (1972 - present), and continues to hold the lead in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Manufacturer's standings through the first ten races of the 2006 season.
The series moves to Darlington International raceway for Round 11 on Saturday night, May 13.
Current NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Manufacturer's Standings:
Chevrolet 74 points (6 wins)
Dodge 57 points (3 wins)
Ford 59 points (1 win)
DALE EARNHARDT JR., AND TONY EURY JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS - RACE WINNER
"For 80% of that race, Kevin Harvick had the best car. I made a charge on him, but he was so much better I conceded the win to him and was just going to race for second. He chose not to pit there one time and we came in and got four tires. After about 40 laps on the next restart, we went by him and that sort of cost him his opportunity. He could have came back, but it just cost him a little bit. That gave us a better track position and was a blessing to us. So we just held on the best we could. Tony Jr. made a change there on the last pit stop that helped the car a lot where it was driving a little bit better. Before he'd made change where it wasn't driving so good. So that was good. He went back on his change a little bit. And I really tried to stay out of trouble and keep it as uneventful as I could all night long. I raced as hard as I could to try to get the lead. I wanted to lead five laps. I didn't know if I'd have an opportunity to lead because Kevin was so good. So I raced as hard as I could to keep him in sight and if he faded there at the end of a run, I might be able to get a lap in or something or lead a lap. The fortune changed there at the end and there I was out there in front. "On the last few laps, I just tried to get up off the corner straight and I knew Denny (Hamlin) was maybe a little bit better than me the first couple of laps anyway. He would get under me, but wouldn't get into me. We are friends. I've known him since we raced Late Models and we hung out quite a while. So it was fun to be able to race him on this Cup level. You get to race your friends in your backyard growing up and you never imagined that the people you're going to race when you get to the top level will be your friends too. The last few laps were pretty good. I just tried to get off the corner straight. I'd pull a car length here and a car length there. With two to go, I thought I had about four car lengths and I think I've got it run."
IN VICTORY LANE DENNY HAMLIN SAID THAT YOU ASKED HIM WHY YOU DIDN'T LAY THE FENDER TO HIM. WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT NOBODY TRIED TO KNOCK YOU OUT OF THE WAY NEAR THE END?
"I thought it was very clean for a short track race between the leaders for most of the night. Obviously, nobody challenged Kevin personally one-on-one. He gave up track position on that call they made not to pit. I wasn't asking him why he didn't put a bumper to me, I just asked him with four to go, I put four car lengths on him and I thought he had the better car. And so I said, 'Could you really not get to me?' And he said he was trying as hard as he could. I thought he had a better car, or maybe I was underestimating my car. When I started pulling him off of Turn 2, I thought it was going to be a little easier than I expected it to be. The first couple of laps, he was underneath me and that's what I anticipated it to be like every lap to the checkered. I was just really curious about why he couldn't get to me."
TALK ABOUT THE CALLS YOU MADE AND YOUR WIN TONIGHT:
"It was pretty awesome. I think Kevin had the best car there for the early part of the race. I was just kind of worried about it and thought okay, let's just get out of here with a top five. We made the car better there and I think that one pit call there where everybody came down and Kevin stayed out was probably the turning point of the race. That kind of set him up to overdrive his car a little bit the rest of the night. We had a pretty easy week here. It went really smooth. I'm pretty pumped up and glad to be back in winner's circle."
ON THE FINAL PIT STOP AND HOW THE CAR CAME ALIVE AFTER THAT:
"Basically it was a pretty small adjustment. Just before that, I got him a little bit too free and he didn't like the forward bite issue we were having. I just put a half-pound in the right rear and put the bite back and it pretty much set on go. I think the biggest thing was when you see a clean race track ahead of you, that probably helps the driver out a ton. But he looked like he ran the same line all night and he didn't get choked up when the No. 11 (Hamlin) was running behind us. There really wasn't that big of a change. The car had run good all night. We just didn't have quite as good a car as the No. 29 there at the start of the race."
TALK ABOUT HOW VIRGINIA RACING FANS CAN BOOST YOUR ENERGY LEVEL AND HOW THEY WERE OUT THERE:
"We sort of live next to here, so we have a good fan base. Every time I ride around the track in a pickup before the race, we get a lot of fans cheering for us before the race and that pumps you up. That gives you motivation to really get up on the wheel. This is a great race track. It's always been a great race track. It's always been a lot of fun. I've enjoyed watching the races here. Since they've changed the track and now repaved it, it's always continued to be great. They've always had a great surface that provides great racing. The facilities are nice. They do a good job. I look forward to coming here. It's one of the better tickets on the circuit. It's got to be right there with Bristol and Daytona."
ON BEING 11TH IN POINTS AT THIS TIME LAST YEAR AND BEING 6th IN POINTS NOW. IS IT TOO EARLY FOR TEAMS TO BE GETTING WORRIED ABOUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN YOU RETURN HERE IN SEPTEMBER?
"You sort of got to keep your eye on some of these guys because you know how capable they are that aren't in the top 10 right now. The stability I have now with this team versus where I was last year is a lot better. I think anybody on that team last year would admit that this is a better situation for success and for continued success so we'll be able to maintain. If we start to slip through the standings I got confidence in Tony Jr. to make the right decisions within the walls of the shop, within the components of that race car to do what it takes to put us in position to win to get to where we need to be. I can drive the car as hard as I can drive every lap. Whether I do it right or not, I don't know. Sometimes I get the job done. Even when time is running out in practice and we're not where we need to be, he (Tony Jr.) always thinks or finds something right there at the end that we can all be satisfied with.
"I feel real comfortable making the Chase even if we find ourselves in the middle of the summer slipping. I think that something will click in his head that will make sure we get there and we're right there where we need to be."
ON FANS NOT KNOWING WHO TO CHEER FOR AT THE END AS HE WAS COMPETING WITH DENNY HAMLIN FOR THE WIN:
"I don't know. I was pulling for Denny too. There was a part of me that wanted to see him get the win. This is his hometown and he's got a lot of family (here). He said some 400 tickets he's got for family and friends and relatives. I told him it might just be his fan club. He's a good guy and a good friend. I'm sure it was divided down the middle and they would have been happy either way because Denny sure has earned his position in this sport. He's going to win a lot of races and be real successful. I was real happy with the run we had this evening. I hate to lose races in the last 10 laps but if we had run second or third we'd still have a lot to be proud of. But to get the win and to race your friend for it, it's a lot of fun."
ON GETTING CLOSE TO KEVIN HARVICK AND IF HE WAS TRYING TO TAKE THE LEAD OR WAIT AND GET HIM LATER:
"We were running together earlier in the race before that incident. I felt like he was going to be hard to beat. He just really had a great car on new tires. We weren't going to be fortunate enough to have a long enough run to catch him. I thought it was better at the end of the run but we had cautions and so we never got to see that gap close up and never got to challenge him for that position. When I got into him, he had the four older tires. He had 40 more laps on his tires. I come off the corner and I must have misjudged on how long my car is because I stuck him in the left rear corner with the headlight and he waved out the window like what are you doing. I was like I'm not really in a position to pass you down here so I'm going to get back behind you. Then I noticed the 5 and 11 were out there so I let them go by. I thought they would run him real hard on the inside and burn their stuff up and I'd just go back by them on the outside and maybe pass Kevin when his tires were about 20 more laps older. That was sort of our plan but 11 was pretty good. He was running the bottom and got by all of us. I was trying to chase him down which I thought I was starting to do and the caution came out again.
"Kevin was on the older tires and I thought if we were going to beat him, that was a pretty easy way to do it for him to be out there on old tires and it cost him some track position and we were able to come back out there and grab the lead. He had new tires there at the end and his car just wasn't quite as good. Like Tony Jr. said, you put a guy out front, it makes it a little easier. You've got clean air. Maybe that's the difference. Maybe me and the 29 have equal cars, just depending on who was in the clean air."
WHAT'S CHANGED SO MUCH WITH YOUR TEAM OVER THE LAST YEAR?
"At this point last year I really had a question mark on what caliber of team I was with. I was sort of in limbo as to what I needed to do to be better. We hadn't run well. We hadn't finished well. I was struggling as a driver. My car was struggling. So I was nowhere near in the position I am now as far as my confidence and how I feel about my team now. What's changed is a lot of things. We definitely have some people around. I don't think that we have put better people in. It's just sort of a chemistry we have now within the guys. We actually took everybody that really wanted to be there and put them together for this season. We've got a lot of guys that are really enjoying what they are doing. I can even see a different side of their faces and their eyes at the race track versus '04 even when we were winning six races and doing great. You just see a little bit more enjoyment out of what they're doing each week. They do get along better. When they come to the track they have more confidence in their cars. I have more confidence in the equipment and the cars. I have more confidence in Tony Jr. than I had before. There's just a better, more positive feeling about it. Even when we have the weeks we've had at Phoenix and Talladega, we were disappointed because we know our potential. We knew our potential and we knew we should have run better and finished better. It's good to be able to get out and get a win every once in a while, if not more often to be able to back up your confidence and back up how you feel about your team and how you feel about your cars."
HAVE YOU EVER RACED DENNY HAMLIN FOR A VICTORY EVEN IF IT WAS FOR A VIDEO GAME?
"Every time I raced him in video games, I won. If I wasn't going to win, I made sure he lost. We raced a lot of times on video games, I mean a lot. We've had some pretty fun races. Otherwise I've never really raced against him aside from when he beat me and Tony (Stewart) there at the (Budweiser) Shoot-Out earlier this year.