DALE EARNHARDT, JR. Dale Jr.'s third straight win, and second Winston No Bull 5 win here in Talladega;, among the active drivers has the most wins at Talladega with three: "We started out the weekend just struggling just a little bit, ...
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
Dale Jr.'s third straight win, and second Winston No Bull 5 win here in Talladega;, among the active drivers has the most wins at Talladega with three:
"We started out the weekend just struggling just a little bit, (everyone was) a little more competitive, I think. When we came back the DEI guys kind of stepped up the programs a little bit. But we just kind of hung tight to what we ran in the past. Tony and the guys made crucial kind of choices in the winter on the car, some kind of tough decisions as far as gear and things and whatnot, just gave me a good driving car and the car could just about go everywhere I wanted it to. It wasn't quite as good as we'd had in the past, but, like I said, the aero package has changed the competitiveness a little bit. It's a little more difficult to just drive right to the front, and it was actually kind of fun to race a little more for the top 10. Inside the top 10 there it was real competitive and a lot of fun. The car was really good, I think, when it cooled off a little bit and the cloud cover came in^Êour car started running a lot better. And I remembered that we ran so good in the night races in Daytona and we were competitive but a little less competitive in the heat of the Daytona 500. I think when the cloud cover came over that was what really helped us at the end. Also the fuel mileage deal worked out for us because as less cars were up in our pack. When you've got 38 cars behind you and you're in second place you've got all those people pushing you and you can actually make runs on the leader, but when you've only got three or four guys behind you it's a little more difficult, I think, to pass the leader. So that was to my advantage too, being out front when the pack kind of thinned out near the end."
TONY EURY SR., CREW CHIEF: "We got a good group of guys that works on that Bud Chevy that really love plate racing and they put a big effort in it because they know Dale Jr. loves it so much. So we work hard on that car. It's the same car that's won it; every time we've won a plate race, it's been that car. They've worked real hard on that car. We pushed her over in the corner after Daytona and four weeks ago we decided we'd better get her out and work on her a little bit and those guys are going to be getting better so we need to work on her a little bit. We got it out and we tuned on her a little bit. We never had a chance to take it to the wind tunnel, we didn't have a date or anything, so we just tuned on it at the shop a little bit, what we thought would make it better. The engine shop, Richie Gilmore and those guys, worked hard on the engines trying to get them a little better. We come back and really didn't think we were going to be competitive today. Yesterday we had a big discussion in the truck. We actually considered changing the engine in the car before the race today. They were going to take points away from us if we did, so we went in there and worked on the valve springs and a little bit of valve train stuff and decided we'd go with it today and hope for the best. It turned out good. They held up their part. They said it was going to be a good engine for the race; they had all the confidence in the world. So we took their word for it and it come out."
TONY STEWART THAT HE FOUND HIMSELF BLOCKING YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING AND HE HAD NO INTENTION OF PASSING YOU:
"Tony Jr. told me about that in victory lane and I didn't havev any knowledge that Tony was going to really dedicate to me. Tony Jr. didn't really want me to let my guard down just in case anything happened or that changed for some reason. When I did hear that it really didn't surprise me. Me and Tony Stewart had worked together several times in some of the shoot-out races iin Daytona and 125 events and some of the Daytona 500s that I ran. Unfortunately, he had motor problems this year and we didn't get to work together too much.. We^Ìve worked together before. There are people on the track that you can run with and there are people that you can't. Like, today, for some reason, mine and Michael's car didn't work too good together in line. We really couldn't help each other at all when he was behind me or when I was behind him. We were just not doing much of anything. I worked with the 12 car, he was a real fast car. Me and him together could really do a lot of things, moving through the pack. And I worked with Tony. It was pretty good. He wasn't quite as good as the 12 car working with me. Just by knowing him, being a friend of his, you could count on him to be there. But I expected him really to challenge me a little more near the end, but I'm not sure whether maybe he didn't have the opportunity or anything."
HOW CLOSE WAS IT ON THE FUEL STATUS ON THE LAST LAP? "Well, Tony (Sr.) might be able to evaluate on the fuel mileage of the car a little bit. I know just coming down pit road, pulling into victory lane it was running out; I didn't have any fuel pressure there."
DID YOU THINK YOU COULD GO 38 LAPS?
"Well, we had factored it to probably be anywhere, I think, from 40 to 41 laps, being capable of doing that. That was probably the absolute most we could run. When it would get down to 36, 37, 38 laps, I'd start to lose fuel pressure in the center of the corner and stuff like that. I think with the smaller tank you see a lot more movement in the gauge as far as fuel pressure so you can almost tell, All right, I've got about another lap and a half or I've got another two laps. You can start to tell when you're goig to have to come in. We'd work real hard, I think, the guys were working real hard figuring gas mileage. Of course, that was our catalyst to get us an opportunity to win. And they did a good job. There were several teams, seven cars there that were able to make it to the end on the stops."
DALE JR. IS OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THE FAN FAVORITES, SOME MAY NOT LIKE TONY STEWART. OBVIOUSLY YOU TWO ARE GOOD FRIENDS:
"Me and him kind of had our share of disagreements in the Busch Series and we became friends after that. And we've done a lot of buddying up, partnering up on the race track in the past. We like racing against each other. At several tracks we're kind of competitive with each other, like Atlanta and a few other places. We've done some other things. We've hung out before in the past off the track and away from the racing atmosphere. He's a competitive guy, he's a real racer kind of guy. If you could understand, I think, a lot of times a lot of people misconstrue his competitiveness for something else. I enjoy him. I've never had a problem with him. I think he's just a target, more than anything."
STEWART SAID LIKE DALE JR. WAS HELPING HIM WITH HIS LINE ON THE TRACK AND HELPING HIM BLOCK PEOPLE, WERE YOU CONSCIOUSLY AWARE OF THAT OR YOU WERE DOING IT ON PURPOSE? "First off, coming off of (turn) 4 and coming off of turn 2 if I tried to run right on the bottom I was a little bit tight off if I tried to turn right on the bottom he could get a run on me to be able to make a pass on me by the end of the straightaway. So I tried to let my car come up a little bit half a lane or at least a lane and then he'd eventually get back to the bottom, so I didn't lose so many rpms trying to keep the car on the bottom. And then I didn't see him get those runs when I would do that. Our spotters were communicating, of course, since we were running first and second. They were up there communicating and he'd say, well, he'd like it if you'd run the bottom because he's getting a lot of people trying to pass him back there and just try to protect the bottom. And I'd wave out the window, ^ÌHey, I'm going to watch the bottom.' You know, we were waving back and forth, carrying on. It's fun to be able to communicate out there and to be able to work with people and almost get something across to another driver without being able to talk, is pretty amazing. The spotters do a real good job. I think that is something that you'll see evolve into even more immense communication over the years as we race at these tracks. You'll see a lot more of that, I think, as far as guys working together and talking, and spotters working back and forth."
WHERE DID YOU EXPECT THAT HE THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO TRY TO GET BY YOU? "If I paced the car, right on the bottom off the corner I'd lose 50 or 100 rpms trying to keep the car on the bottom and he could get to me. If I let the car stay freed up off the corner I could keep him from getting the run. I'd see him a couple of times with four or five to go trying to fall back and see where he could get runs and make things happen and I'd just try to lift off the throttle a little bit and not to get too far ahead of him to where when he started to get his push he was still pushing me. Because there's like an imaginary beach ball there to where you can't really get to the guy's bumper. So, if you get a run, you need to be way back to where before you ever get to that beach ball you pull out and go around the guy."
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU THAT IT WAS A CAUTIONLESS RACE? "Well, I think Tony Jr. and Tony Sr. had the fuel mileage figured out to where we could do certain amount of stops, is where you saw a lot of guys having to stop an extra time. That was definitely in our favor, and you never expect the race to go green flag. You definitely don't leave any stones unturned and you try to take every advantage that you have and I think the guys on the Bud team did that today."
WERE YOU SURPRISED ABOUT THE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS ENGINE PROBLEMS? DO YOU THINK IT WAS SOMETHING THAT THEY MAY HAVE BEEN DOING FOR THE FUEL CELL?
"Actually, I don't it was fuel mileage related. I think it was all in the valve train. We noticed yesterday all the Hendrick cars were real strong in Happy Hour. Undoubtedly, they've come up with a new camshaft or something for their plate deal. There cars were real strong, but I think that's where they had the problem. Every car out there that Hendrick had I think had a valve train problem."
WITH TONY STEWART NOT TRYING TO PASS YOU WAS POSSIBLY A POINTS SITUATION. WOULD IT HAVE CHANGED IF HE WERE 50 POINTS DOWN FROM FIRST PLACE?
"No. I don't think the formula should be different. I think it awards consistency. I think it's a great system where they've got it now. It just awards consistency. We've seen guys lose championships where they've had won six races and the guy that wins the championship only wins one. The guy that won the championship, he was in the top five more often, was a more competitive car, he deserves the championship, not the guy that just won six races. Hell, anybody can come in here and do that, you know (laughing). I think it's a good system the way it is. You're basically saying the guy that wins the most races should win the championship, and I don't feel like that's certainly fair."
DO YOU THINK THE FUEL CELL WORKED AS INTENDED OR BETTER? "I like the fact that we had such great gas mileage and a lot of guys didn't. That put a lot of guys out of a chance to win the race. So, it favors the Bud team, it favors the Pennzoil team and the NAPA team, so that's great. I don't think NASCAR quite accomplished what they were expecting. One thing I found interesting was that we would have..if you had cautions it doesn't matter, ^Ìcause that bunches the field up. You need three or four of those pit stops in a row under green flag to see what we saw, and that was getting the pack strung out. I couldn't tell exactly how many guys were in the lead draft, but it looked like to me that the majority of the field stayed in the pack. You come out on pit road after a stop and a couple of guys would go by you and four or five more guys would go by you and then you'd see the pack about three seconds back, about 15, 20 cars, and you'd think, Wow, we're all kind of strung out here, this is cool,' and then five laps later everybody would be kind of caught back up to each other. I don't think it strung us out like they wanted it to, and it also took a lot of guys out of the race for the win, and I don't think they wanted that to happen, so maybe they'll make them 18 gallon cells or something like that."
ANY SIGNIFICANCE TO YOUR SUPERMAN T-SHIRT? "No, just a cool shirt, I thought."
WITH SIX RACES TO GO, WHO DO YOU THINK HAS THE BEST CHANCE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think Mark (Martin) had engine trouble today, didn't he? I saw him pull off there, smoking and carrying on, and that's a huge hit for him. I don't know exactly where Jimmie (Johnson) ended up. If I had the top five or six in front of me right now I could probably make a better assumption. I think it's still really anybody's race."
STEWART IS IN THE POINTS LEAD: "Oh, Tony did. Really? Wow. I didn't know that. That definitely makes him a favorite because of his experience. Jimmie...being a rookie is going to be tough for him, because it's going to be hard for him to maintain the composure he needs to win the championship. Of course, you go out there and you're lightning fast and you win races because the car is so good, that's one thing. But there's a lot of times when you've got to make decisions for the better of the year instead of the day. I'm not sure whether he's at that point in his career where he can make those type of decisions. I think everybody's got shot. It's pretty amazing that Jimmie and Ryan (Newman) are third and fourth right now. Hopefully, we're still kind of aiming at the top 10, so we're looking like we've got an opportunity."
IS THERE ANY SPECIFIC NAME OR NUMBER TO THIS CHASSIS?
"No, it's just double O 4 (oo4). It's the fourth car that we built when we came out of the Busch Series. It actually was our first primary speedway car in the year 2000 and we pushed it to the side at the end of the year and tried a newer car and we weren't really happy with it, so we went back and reskinned that one. It's been a great car ever since we reskinned it, it's been real good. Whether it had the blade on the roof or whatever the rule was, it's just always been a good car, for some reason."
ARE YOU GOOD AT PLATE RACES BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT OR BECAUSE YOU'RE GOOD AT IT?
"Number one, of course when you're good at something^Ê There are tracks that I enjoy on the series or on the schedule. I enjoy going to them because I know we have a chance to run well. There's tracks where you try really hard not to go in with a bad attitude. I've gotten a lot better at that over the last several years. That was half of the demise of our rookie season was because a lot of these tracks that we went to I didn't look forward to it and no matter how good the car was if I didn't have my head on straight I wasn't going to do what I could with it because I just expected the worse. Of course, when you come into these tracks, you've got a lot of confidence. I enjoy running these tracks because I have a good enough car that can do what I want it to do. I don't know if I'm better than the next guy because I'm not driving his car. I don't know if their cars can do that if I'm in them, or what. But I know my car does what I want it to do and I look forward to coming here because I know we're going to have a shot at winning. These are big races, too. Talladega and Daytona are two of the biggest tracks in spectacle means on the circuit. To win at these tracks is a great boost for the team, a good confidence boost and for the sponsors^Êthese guys like the exposure they get out of winning these races. We don't put more focus, I guess, on one or the other, as far as it goes, short track or whatever. We're good at it and hopefully we'll be good at it for a long time."
WHAT'S IT LIKE KNOWING YOU'VE WON THREE RACES NOW AT TALLADEGA? "I'm very happy that I was able to be competitive here. My dad really won a lot of races here and look forward to running here. I looked forward to watching and coming to this race track because I knew he would run well. It's a good feeling to know, I guess, what he felt when he was coming here and winning the races, having the confidence that he had. I can kind of have an idea, I guess, of what he thought about when he came here. It's a great boost for our team. We've had a lot of success over the three years, very interesting wins and things like that. And this is another notch, I guess, in the belt, to have three in a row. And I'm very proud to be the guy that drives the car. Like I said in victory lane, certainly we're out there making decisions for ourselves, but you gotta be able to have a car to be able to compete. No matter how good you are if your car can't hang with the best of them, you're not going to run well here. You don't just luck into it. Very fortunate that my car is as good as it is, and that's a tribute to Tony, the work ethic that he's instilled in the rest of the team and the motors that we got (from) Richie Gilmore, and the fabrication department. It's a broken record, but those guys are the reason why that car does what it does."