MICHAEL WALTRIP , NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (Qualified 2nd) "We came here and tested a week ago and it was obvious to me that the car had the speed in it to qualify well and to race well. With the No. 15 car, we generally don't change...
MICHAEL WALTRIP , NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (Qualified 2nd)
"We came here and tested a week ago and it was obvious to me that the car had the speed in it to qualify well and to race well. With the No. 15 car, we generally don't change the set-up any from qualifying to race. So that's encouraging when you know the package you qualified second with today is the same one you'll race on Sunday with. It gives you a lot of confidence that you've got a car capable of winning the race. We're very optimistic about our chances and very pleased with the effort from DEI. You know, Dale (Earnhardt) was the best at racing these plate races. He understood that in order to be successful you had to have a fast car. That's what he left us with at DEI. We knew he expected for the cars to be the fastest. Everyone has worked so hard at DEI to make sure that they provide Junior and I with the fastest cars. I think you can see today, with of course the results of recent history, that we're on top of it."
DALE EARNHARDT JR. , NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (Qualified 3rd)
"I felt like I could have run a little better than I did - maybe almost a tenth better. I might have messed up a little bit myself. But I went in the corner and the front of car was hopping up and down a little bit getting into the corner and I don't know whether I just drove in the corner on the bottom too low to try to turn the car too tightly around the bottom of the corner. But, I figured we'd run just a little bit better. But overall, I can't really be too disappointed. We brought a car that we don't have a lot of time on the race track in. We ran this car in the Shootout and weren't real happy with it. Tony (Eury) Jr. and Tony (Eury) Sr. and everybody at DEI just cut and grinded and beat and banged on it until they got it better and better. So I thought we'd struggle a little bit in qualifying today. Overall, I'm pretty happy. I think the driver could have done a little bit better job on his qualifying lap."
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT DEI'S SUCCESS ON THE PLATE TRACKS?
DALE EARNHARDT JR: "We've done nothing dominant in qualifying. I think everybody knows that Michael's car and my car will be real strong in the race. But it's really anybody's game when you come out here to qualify. Everybody had their tricks - new tricks, old tricks - nobody knows yet and what have you. The No. 21 car has obviously found something to gain a lot of speed since we ran at Daytona. Everybody learns something new over time with testing and whatever. So it's really anybody's game in qualifying. But I'm like Michael and am just glad to get a good solid starting spot so when the race starts we don't have far to go to get to the front."
Q: DOES DEI'S SUCCESS AFFECT OTHER TEAM'S APPROACH TO PLATE RACING?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: "We're not necessarily dependent on each other. You saw Dale Jr. win the Daytona 500 with Tony Stewart as his partner. When I won the 500 in 2003, Dale Jr. had a problem and he wasn't anywhere around. The cars are that good where we can be successful without each other. But my goal is for us to finish one-two. That's what I want. I want his car to be right behind mind, or vice-versa. Preferably, his right behind mine.
"I never well forget this. And I usually don't reflect about things that Dale Earnhardt said. But he told me before the Daytona 500 in 2001 that he and Dale Jr. and I could win that race. He said, 'We've got to work together'. Those words really echo in my head every time we head to one of these places. We owe it to the company. We owe it to each other to do everything we can to make sure the cars are first and second whenever possible. Junior and I have had that mentality.
"But we don't ever plan anything. We just figure we're both going to wind up at the front and when we both wind up there, whoever is in front is going to support each other and help each other at that point. We don't ever figure out how were going to get there. If we're both there, we know what are responsibilities are."
Q: HOW WILL SUNDAY'S RACING AT TALLADEGA COMPARE TO THE SPREAD OUT RACING WE SAW AT DAYTONA?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: "I think it's going to be the same racing we saw here last year at the last race of the season. It'll be real similar and about the same package. It was good racing. We weren't all over the top of each other or in each other's way. Everybody was spread out. The good guys were up front and that's how it was most of the day. I don't really prefer the small fuel cell because it presents me opportunities to make mistakes on pit road. But one benefit of it is that it causes a lot more pit stops where the pit crew determines whether a guys loses or gains some time on the race track.
And that's really an interesting addition to the mix in my opinion. I just don't like coming off pit road more than I have to. But if you get lucky like we did in Daytona - don't make mistakes on a pit road and have a good day - it's going to be a good race. It seems like the group of guys we've got in the field I hope we won't get a lot of cautions - or any cautions - and we see a lot of green flag laps."
Q: IS DEI ADVANCING FASTER IN YOUR RESTRICTOR PLATE PROGRAM THAN THE OTHER CHEVY TEAMS?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: "I don't know. All three companies, and there are other Chevrolet teams out there, has great people. Everybody has the same access to the same tools and the same pieces and parts and ideas and engineering and whatnot. The only thing that we have that a lot of people don't have are individuals. Richie Gilmore and Tony Sr. and Tony Jr. and other people within our organization understand what the air does under the car and on top of the car and all different things. It seems to bring together an awesome race car. We're just in a phase and I don't know if this is something that'll always be the case, but right now we're just enjoying the opportunity to have success and such good cars."
MICHAEL WALTRIP: "The only thing I'd add is the intangible that we have with Dale Earnhardt. We prepare for these racing knowing what is expected of us and knowing of what is expected of the team in order to be successful. It's an intangible that other people don't have. In sports, there are tangibles that line up on your side, that generally makes you a more successful organization and in this case we benefit from that."
Q: WHAT FEEL LIKE YOU ARE EXPECTED TO WIN AT PLATE RACES?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: "I come here expecting to win. That's my main goal."
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: "Yeah, we come here with great race cars and one of us should win the race. With as competitive as our cars are, one of us should go out there and win."
Q: ON KERRY EARNHARDT MAKING THE FIELD FOR SUNDAY'S RACE
DALE EARNAHRDT JR: "I was real excited that Kerry had a good car. I knew Richard Childress would give him a great opportunity. I know Kerry is probably pretty happy right now knowing that he's going to be in the field on Sunday. Richard has been a good friend of the family even behind the scenes since 2001. He's done a lot of things for me and my sister and my grandmother and the rest of the family personally that a lot of people don't know about. This is one of those things. I'm just real glad that program met its expectations."