DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (finished 2nd) ON THE RACE OVERALL "It was a wild race. It was a lot of fun. I was really looking forward to today. I love running on this race track. This package is pretty cool. The...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (finished 2nd)
ON THE RACE OVERALL
"It was a wild race. It was a lot of fun. I was really looking forward to today. I love running on this race track. This package is pretty cool. The new tire is really nice because it wears out and your car slides around and you can make some driving moves instead of just drafting all the time. It was fun regardless of the decision there at the end. We had a real good car. We had a good day. We weren't as confident in this car as we were in the won we won at Daytona with that's in the museum. Yesterday we were real disappointed with how it ran in practice.
"We didn't really make a whole lot of changes. We just did what we felt like we'd been doing here in the past to get success. The race started and the car was great. We went to the front and led some laps. We raced three-wide and I worked with my teammate a lot today. I worked with the RCR car of Gordon (Robby) and (Kevin) Harvick too. It was great. We were all working together. Everybody was really having a lot of fun out there regardless of all the beating and banging I think we were all smiles.
"There at the end, I was trying to motion on the restarts for Mark (Martin). When I was getting into the gas, he didn't really get that good of a start that last time. We kind of got jumped by a couple of guys. The next thing I knew, we were running about fourth or fifth on the inside. Harvick was leading. We got shoved back to the lead. It was just a lot of racing and a lot of passing. I thought it was a great race for the fans. And there at the end, we were on the outside. I got shoved from the No. 48 (Johnson) down the back straightaway. I thought I was ahead of Jeff (Gordon) in the corner when the caution was out. But NASCAR had the opposite opinion on that and went with Jeff and gave that team the victory. It was kind of disappointing but it was a great points day for us.
"I'm just disappointed we didn't get the win. I haven't seen NASCAR's evidence as far as their piece of videotape or whatever to show me I was not ahead of Jeff when the caution came out. I feel like I was. I was a car length past him going by a caution light that was not on. So I had to have been ahead of him when the flag came out because the flag comes out before the lights, I believe. But not very far ahead of it. If anything, I at least had half a car length on Jeff. But apparently NASCAR says I didn't. But we'll see what they've got to show us. We're not going to stomp our feet and argue and moan about it. NASCAR makes the rules. This is a difficult decision for them, I do understand, due to the new rules they've implemented into the sport. It's a tough call. I feel bad that they have to make a tough call that hands one guy over the other the win, but that's the way it is today."
DID WE WASTE 5 LAPS UNDER CAUTION AND COULD WE HAVE FINISHED UNDER THE GREEN?
"Obviously NASCAR had a reason to leave the caution out. Apparently there was something hampering our ability to get back to racing in some form or another. I thought maybe a one-lap dash was a possibility, but there is more to the story that you and I know. So I'm not sure I'm the guy who can answer that question. It looked in order to me, but I've been wrong about that in the past."
WOULD YOU HAVE WANTED TO SEE A ONE-LAP DASH DESPITE OF THE DANGER?
"Well, yeah. I want the win, so give me a lap and we'll see what happens. I understand that it is dangerous - maybe not for a guy in first, second, third or fourth - but this guy coming from 10th that's trying to get a top five and somehow somebody gets on his roof every time. So it's maybe not a good idea overall for everybody. But I'd have liked to have a shot at it. There are a lot of guys who were probably happy to have it end under caution."
WHAT ABOUT THE GREEN, WHITE, CHECKERED RULE THAT THE TRUCKS HAVE?
"It would have been nice today. But if you bring that into the sport, and a lot of times you'll have three or four green, white, checkereds - kind of like a double or triple overtime deal -- where we just keep running over each other. So, maybe that's not something you'd want at this level of racing. To keep harmony, the way things are is pretty good. I don't want to complain. I just feel like I was ahead of him. That's my only argument. Other than that, I thought it was a great race."
ON RACING NOSE TO TAIL WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON
"It was a lot of fun. Jimmie is pretty evasive out on the race track. He's real aggressive when trying to hang on to the lead. There were times when I felt like if he wanted it bad enough, I'd see how bad he wanted it in the corner (laughs). But he had a real strong bumper on the back of his car.
"I could push him through the corner. There are only one or two cars on the track that you can do that. A lot of guys you scoop up under them and you can pick them up. So pushing them through the corner of the tri-oval was not an option. But Jimmie's bumper was strong enough where I could hit him in the corner and it didn't really upset his car too much."
WERE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW WELL KERRY EARNHARDT RAN TODAY?
"My team has a nickname for Kerry. We call him Lamont. I don't now why. Tony Jr. and Tony Sr. gave it to him. We were running and I got caught in the middle and I saw that dang fish on the hood coming at me (No. 33 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet). They said (on the radio), 'Here comes Lamont up the middle to help you.' And he pushed me all the way up there. Aside from a couple of races in the mid '90's, we have hardly raced against each other. So that was a blast. I couldn't wait for him to get back up there because he was having a great time, I'm sure. He put on a great run for his team. They really accomplished everything they set out to by making the race and running strong. Unfortunately he was a victim there in his accident and it cost him the ability to finish the race. He has to really be pretty happy with what he was able to show today. I was proud of him.
"I think Michael (Waltrip) was getting beat around by a couple guys and turned down there across the middle lane on somebody and ended up running into the side of Kerry and taking him out of the race. But Kerry has nothing to be upset about. He had a great day. He really showed a lot of promise. I can't wait to see him in the other four races he's going to run this year."
WHEN DID YOU FIND OUT NASCAR SAID YOU FINISHED 2ND?
"I thought they said the No. 8 car was ahead right off the bat. They said No. 8 and No. 24. About a lap later, they said No. 24 and No. 8. Apparently they were looking at their tapes. They were pretty much staying with that story."
ON PEOPLE SAYING THESE RACES ARE RIGGED SO JR. WINS
"Well, as bad as is not to win the race and not get the trophy, I'm real glad that one of these calls finally went against me. It's going to shut up a lot of people. All my fans can now voice their opinions. It'll be a good day reading the paper tomorrow.
"I've been on both ends of this - getting the call to go for you and getting it to go against you. It's just like the other day with the No. 21 and the No. 2 in the Busch race not getting sent to the back for violating some rules. We've bent a few rules on our car too. If we pulled the covers back on everything we've got I'm sure you could find something you don't like about it. That's the way it is for this call. Last year, I was racing below the yellow line and they called it fair. This one didn't go my way. So, big deal. All in all, it's a positive good finish for us. We have a lot to be happy about."
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THE FANS THAT WERE THROWING BEER CANS ON THE TRACK AT THE END OF THE RACE?
"It's just that people have been here all day long having a good time. A lot of times you do things you regret or shouldn't do. In a way, I look at it as a pure form of expression which I really rare in this sport. It's really the only outlet left of telling it like it is. A side of me really likes to see the reaction whether it was pro Earnhardt or anti-Earnhardt. I've seen a lot of people holding up No. 24 banners and hats that were happy Gordon won the race. A lot of people may have been disappointed just because they didn't go back to green.
"But we can only speculate. But each little beer can out there has a little message on it. What that message is, we don't all really know for sure. I don't think they really trashed the place. They were expressing themselves in the only manner they saw fit. You see one beer can go on the track and you can expect to see more following it."
ARE NASCAR FANS LIKE GERMAN SOCCER FANS WHEN THEY GO WILD?
"It's ridiculous to coin that phrase. NASCAR is really putting itself out in a different market. We're on a different stage now, so you're going to have more people talking about what they think is right or wrong - especially in this sport when there are as many judgment calls and gray areas. The fans want answers. I feel bad for NASCAR to be in this situation. But they're trying to figure out how to make it more black & white.
"There is not another race on the circuit where the fans are as pumped as they are at Talladega for the whole duration of the race. Every lap you run, people's arms are in the air. I love it. And with the side by side racing, it builds up emotions with everybody. You've got to expect some type of emotions. Luckily, it wasn't seat cushions like we had at Daytona. They were difficult to climb over with your race car. The beer cans were easy to dodge."
IS IT WORTH IT TO TURN YOUR WINNING DAYTONA 500 CAR OVER TO THE MUSEUM?
"I was disappointing that we couldn't bring what we felt was the best car. I wish we could have gotten that car out of the museum and then put it back when we were done. But that's not the way it works. We had two cars to choose from. Both of them ran the Bud Shootout - one in 2003 and one this year. One car won in 2003. We didn't like the car we ran in 2004 that pushed Dale Jarrett to the win. We brought that car.
"Tony Jr. wouldn't change his mind. He worked on it. He cut the sides and fenders and nose off of it. He's worked on it since February. We qualified pretty good. I wasn't really happy with the car on Saturday. It was great today. So I'm not worried about the car going into Daytona in July. It's just as good as the one we won the 500 with."