BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS: IS TEXAS A TRACK YOU CAN BREAK THROUGH AND GET AN INTERMEDIATE TRACK WIN? "I thought we were going to pull through and get one at Atlanta, Atlanta has...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS:
IS TEXAS A TRACK YOU CAN BREAK THROUGH AND GET AN INTERMEDIATE TRACK WIN?
"I thought we were going to pull through and get one at Atlanta, Atlanta has been one of the better tracks for me. We do run good every time we come here. We seem to be able to get good top-10 finishes in most of the races. There are some guys that have this place figured out. We will just have to go after them. We will have quite a challenge to come in here and get a win."
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN THE TRACK FROM WHEN YOU FIRST CAME HERE?
"I really haven't been able to tell much difference from one to the other. Off of turn two, the corner just keeps going and the banking leaves. So you coming off the corner, you are still turning and there is no banking for you. Three and four isn't a big deal, the track is actually a lot of fun."
WHEN YOU FIRST CAME HERE, WAS IT A JUMP OUT AND BITE YOU KIND OF PLACE?
"Yes, turn two has always been that way for me. You lose the banking but you still have a lot of turning to do. The car just doesn't want to stick. Always a lot of wrecks right there."
WHEN YOU WERE WINNING HERE, OTHER DRIVERS WERE UPSET ABOUT THIS TRACK, WERE YOU JUST TOO YOUNG TO KNOW BETTER?
"Yes, just too young to know better. I have always raced good here. It is the sort of configuration I enjoy. It has always had a nice kind of grip which makes it easier for rookie drivers to come in and get comfortable but the setup is still hard to find. I think when you win somewhere, you always carry that confidence in to that track no matter what happens. You have that data so you don't have excuses.
DID YOUR EVER SAY ANYTHING TO YOU ABOUT IT?
"No, but we never talked that much about racing. I think he would be happy with how it is now. I like the track.
"I don't really know what he would think about the track itself, but I think he would be very happy with the effort that the track owners and everybody here has put in. They have repaved the place three times. They have done whatever they needed to do to fit in and fix things. They have earned everything they have gotten. They have a great race track, a wonderful facility and they do everything they can to make it easy on the fans. Lot of room for the drivers. I am not sure about the press side, but there is a lot of room for us here. It is a nice place to come to. There are a lot of places we go to that the garage it tight or there is no room for this or that, or this is hard to deal with or that is hard to deal with, but this is one of those places where it is pretty much of a breeze to get around and do what you have to do."
IS THIS NOW ONE OF THE NICEST PLACES YOU GO DO?
"It is right up there. There are some pretty nice race tracks out there and everybody is starting to see that. After Daytona, some of the tracks that Bruton has built the last few years is kind of setting the trend and setting the standard. You have Vegas that is definitely going to up the ante for a lot of these places to really either put up or shut up."
WHAT AFFECT DID LAST WEEK'S GREAT RUN HAVE ON YOU AND YOUR TEAM?
"I was just very proud of mainly the car for holding up like it did and to be able to handle the things that it handled. I got in a few accidents, maybe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't see how I could have done anything different, but, I would have liked to have been able to run that race with the car in one piece. I was proud of my team for the effort that they gave me. We had just a very small amount of time to get it fixed. By the time we would get on pit road to get some work done, we would have to leave because a lap doesn't take but a few seconds there. They had a lot of things they had to cut away and work on, move out of the way and , check. They hustled, no one ever got loud, and no one lost their temper. They all just feel good about the reunion, no only between me and Junior (Tony Eury) but the team itself and the position we are in right now. We are showing a lot of upswing. We are making a lot of strides with several of our departments at DEI. Everybody seems real pleased with the results the No. 8 car has been able to put up so far. Martin (Truex, Jr) has had some bad luck and have some things bite him. He has been in some incidents and what not but it tough being a rookie in this series no matter who you are. "
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO BUILD OFF OF THAT MOMENTUM FROM LAST WEEK? DID THAT RUN MAKE YOU GUYS STRONGER?
"I just want to keep trying to be smart and get out of these races as much as we can get and get the points we can get. We were stronger before the race started, I think we have proved that throughout the race how good of a team we are. I have never been good in practice at that race track. You can't put up fast times there in a happy hour practice. So that is why we aren't really the story until it is all over with but we had that good of car all weekend."
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT TRANSLATES FROM A TRACK LIKE THAT TO A TRACK LIKE THIS?
"What is cool is to the next track and have people come up to you and tell you what a good job you did and what a good effort it was. That means the most when your peers are noticing what you do and are appreciating what you do even though they race against you. I told Tony Jr. that after the Atlanta race, that was the most I have ever been complimented on how good a car handled or looked like it was handling in my entire career. And after Martinsville, I have never been complimented more on my driving. I really feel like I am in the best position I have ever been when it comes to what I have at my disposal with my crew, the team, the effort, everything that is behind me right now is as good as it has ever been. I feel like if I can do what I need to do right, we will have a great shot this year. It looks to me like we are a good, solid team, we certainly need to go out there and win some races, get those done and get a couple more trophies."
DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHEN THAT FIRST WIN MIGHT COME?
"It is hard to say. If you take away the penalty at Vegas, we had a top-15 finish there so we really haven't finished out of the top-15 all year. I am really proud of that coming off of last season, we have never done that before in any season. We didn't' run like we should have at Bristol and I thought that was a place where we could show we were at least equal to how we have been there in the past, especially '04. But we went to Martinsville and really ran well. We tested good here and I really feel comfortable in the car. I don't really know how good we will qualify here but that isn't our main concern.
HOW TOUGH IS IT TO WIN HERE?
"It is tough to win anywhere. It isn't really anything in particular about any race track. It is just tough to win anywhere in this series. Each year, it throws three or four more teams in the mix as competitors week in and week out. You really have to bring your A game and work hard back home at the shop."
WHY DID IT MEAN SO MUCH TO YOU TO HEAR THE COMPLIMENTS ABOUT YOUR DRIVING AT MARTINSVILLE?
"We get called overrated quite a bit. Me in particular, the 8 team gets it once and a while but me in particular. As a driver, I get called over rated all the time. So it is just good to get out there, put on a good race and get a good finish and have good runs to remind people that there is a little bit of talent there behind the name.
WHEN WILL THE FIRST WIN COME THIS YEAR? THINK IT COULD HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND?
"I don't know, I hope it is before we get in the middle of the summer. Man it would be great to go to Charlotte and get a win. Anywhere right now would be good to go to and get a win. This early in the season to be able to rack up some points like that would be awesome. It absolutely could come here. We came here and tested with Goodyear during the off-season and I was real happy with how well the car drove. We aren't on that setup today, so I am not very particular about how the car is driving today.
"We were ok in practice. But that was qualifying practice. I think once I get under the race setup we tested with, the car was really, really fast and I was very happy with it. I think it will last all day long. A lot of guys get tight here during the race. I run good here. I feel like I can really get around this race track. With that combination-the car handling like it did during the test and me behind the wheel, I think we have a good shot.
IS BEING ABLE TO TEST HERE WITH GOODYEAR AN ADVANTAGE WITH THE NEW TESTING RULES?
"Yes, with the way the rules are now, everybody want to be Goodyear's testers now."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO THE SPORT TO HAVE THE NO. 8 TEAM BACK ON TOP AND DOING WELL AGAIN?
"I know what it means to me and I know what it means to our team. There is a lot of pride at stake between myself, Tony Jr. and Sr. and the team members and everybody that is working so hard to try and right the ship and get things going good. I am really pleased with some of the things I have seen changed and how things are going better.
"I don't really know on the scale of what it means to the guys down there in the big yellow truck"