DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER IMPALA SS - QUALIFIED 3rd: ON HIS LAP: "I just tried to get me a good sold lap in that would hopefully get me a top 15 or a top 10. I think we under credited ourselves because we didn't get a clean lap in...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER IMPALA SS - QUALIFIED 3rd:
ON HIS LAP:
"I just tried to get me a good sold lap in that would hopefully get me a top 15 or a top 10. I think we under credited ourselves because we didn't get a clean lap in practice. I didn't know what the car was capable of. I was really surprised the car was as quick as it was and that lap was as good as it was. I didn't make any mistakes but I think there was a whole lot more in the race car and in the speed. I'm really happy to qualify amongst the competitors that I did. That was pretty good for our team."
WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU SPED UP BY SLOWING DOWN?
"That's definitely the case. With the CoT, at all the oval races, if you pushed the car maybe a half a car length deeper into the corner you would have a pretty severe loss of a nose or if you tried to challenge the car to get more gas up off the corner, you would struggle increasingly worse than you would in the old car. Knowing that, you sort of have to just be real easy and real careful and not push the car. If you try to drive a corner just a little bit deeper it was a lot of tenths, a lot of time, off your lap. I was watching guys in qualifying losing four or five-tenths on just one corner with a little small mistake - good guys, good cars. So it's just all about maybe not so much trying to make each corner perfect, but just trying not to screw any one of them up really big. I went to a VIR test and we were really fast in that test. My entire outlook going into the test was just to run about 80 percent all day long to just try to gain data and not trying to really race the track or try to put down any massive laps. And we ended up running 80 percent all day and we were really fast. Anytime I seemed to try to get more out of the car, I would run slower and struggle getting the car around the corner. So I learned a lot at that test just about driving this car on the road courses and it worked out today."
WHOSE STRATEGY WAS IT TO THROTTLE BACK JUST A LITTLE BIT?
"Well it wasn't really a strategy. Just going to the test at Virginia, it's hot. You're there with the team. Obviously the drivers enjoy the tests a lot less than the teams do. But the guys, even though they're there to gain data, they're as miserable as we are. It's hot and it's just not a very comfortable environment. So we just went in with a list of things to try and said hey, we just need to get through this list and see what works and what doesn't. I had been practicing on the computer at VIR and in the game, you really have to be disciplined and not try to drive real hard and just try to drive smooth. That's what I did in the test and it worked awesome. I came here today and ran hard and slid around and screwed my laps up. I never got to really see how fast my car was because I kept pushing too hard. So I started to think back about the test and how we were successful with a more conservative approach. I don't have enough experience to go whipping around here like Robb y (Gordon) and some of guys. So just backing down a bit and being smooth and just try to get something in every once in a while it'll work out and you'll have a fast lap if you're lucky.
ON THE ADDITION OF THE SPLITTER GIVE YOU ANY CONCERN ABOUT BUSTING ONE ON A CURB?
"I don't have any concerns with it. We do get the splitter down toward the ground, but normally when you're approaching a curb or near a curb you're at the center of the corner and the car is not sealed on the ground at that point. But even if you do bust the side of a splitter off I don't think you're going to have a huge adverse affect on how your car drives or handles if you just knocked a corner off or shipped it up a little bit. I just try not to hit other cars. I think that's going to be the hardest part. The curbs are easy to miss (laughter). The other cars out there, I either lose control or mine or they lose control of theirs and we have a lot of calamity."
DOES IT MATTER THAT TWO OF THE BEST ROAD RACERS ARE STARTING THE RACE AT THE BACK OF THE FIELD, OR ARE YOU JUST RACING THE TRACK?
"I feel like with pit strategy, you'll have a great opportunity to pass a lot of cars on pit road. You have to sacrifice something to gain that. But for Jeff Gordon, as good a team as they are, they can overcome that. I haven't been able to put it all together yet. I just want to be able to stay out on the asphalt and not make any mistakes and get one in the bag and get a top 10 here. That's my goal."
YOU LOOK SO RELAXED AND SO HAPPY WITH ALL THE WEIGHT OFF YOUR BACK, IS THAT REFLECTIVE WITH YOUR DRIVING? DO YOU FEEL LOOSE AND ARE YOU JUST GOING FOR IT?
"No, not really. I was frustrated during practice. I was making a lot of mistakes during our mock runs for qualifying and just didn't get to see what my car was capable of. My car had an issue that I really couldn't diagnose or try to find what direction I needed to go. That was frustrating. I feel better when I'm at home and not at the race track. But when you're at the race track, the competitiveness inside you - you could have just won the lottery, it doesn't matter - you want to get the car to run a half second faster and you'd do about anything to get that done. You still have those things to deal with when it comes to your personality. But it has been easer. It has been a better time."
DO YOU FEEL STRESS TO PUT EXTRA EFFORT FORWARD? HAVE YOU GONE TO ANY DRIVING SCHOOLS LATELY?
"No, I haven't been to any driving schools. I've just been practicing on the computer a little bit. Man, the hard thing for me is just not making mistakes. I can't get to that next level where I start concentrating on track position and qualifying well and putting that effort in. My whole goal when I get here is can I make a clean lap as a driver? I can do it at Watkins Glen, but this track has so many technical corners and parts to it. I don't run here enough to acclimate myself and learn the course. Once I get here I spend the whole day basically just trying to get to where I can at least run one lap straight without too many issues. But tomorrow if we can have a good practice and have a car that is competitive and comfortable, we might be able to set some more goals for ourselves."
-credit: gm racing