Harrah's 500 Qualifying Friday, March 30, 2001 Texas Motor Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo (pole-sitter) "It's real warm right now. When it cools off, guys will pick up a little bit. So, I don't...
Harrah's 500 Qualifying
Friday, March 30, 2001
Texas Motor Speedway
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo (pole-sitter)
"It's real warm right now. When it cools off, guys will pick up a little bit. So, I don't think that'll stay as far as the pole goes. I was pretty happy with the lap. We're happy with the guys. This morning they worked real hard. We ran good here in the race, but we weren't that great qualifying, so at least we've got it dialed in. This is probably one of my favorite tracks. I love coming to Texas. I run good here and the fans seem to appreciate. We dialed it in a little better for qualifying."
Do you feel better about how your team is doing?
"We've just had some bad luck this year. We've had good handling cars. And we all get along real well. Everything on that side of the coin has improved over last year. But we haven't put any finishes up on the board at all and we're real disappointed about that. It's been pretty difficult - especially over the past six weeks with everything that's going on. So hopefully we come here and take a good finish home with us whether it's a win or a top five finish - anything will really help the team."
Are you tired of the media pressure?
"We really haven't had that much media pressure. Everybody's dealt with it pretty good. Everybody has given us a lot of space and stuff like that. We haven't done anything performance-wise on the track. If we run good and have something to talk about, like today when we had a good qualifying lap, I don't mind talking to anybody. But we did turn a lot of people down."
Could you hear the crowd?
"Oh yeah. I'm telling you, these people are real cool. You would expect to get more reaction from people closer to home, but we've done so well here that everybody seems to really appreciate the car when it comes on the racetrack."
Steve Park, No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 5th)
"We just couldn't get the lap that we needed, but congratulations to my teammate, Dale Jr. We knew he was going to be tough to beat. We would have liked to get the pole, but if we can't get it, we're sure glad to see him get it."
How are the track conditions?
"The track's pretty bumpy. They've ground it to try to make it smoother and take some of the big dips out, and it's created some smaller speed bumps out there. The track's had a problem in the past to try to keep the surface where it needs to be. But this is the best we've seen for the NASCAR cars. So we're pretty excited about our opportunity on Sunday, so we'll take a 5th in qualifying and go get 'em on Sunday."
Bobby Hamilton, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 4th)
"I'm real happy with it. I've never run good here and they haven't either. This Square D Chevrolet unloaded real well. It's just been flawless, really. We just throwed a couple things at it and tried some stuff and we were third quickest and ran the same speed in qualifying. We usually pick up about a tenth, but this will get us in the top 15 I think. We've been working real close with Joe (Nemechek, No. 33 team) and he was sitting at the car waiting on me. We're trying to help him out this week a little bit. I told him what I thought I'd do on air pressure and they're going to make that change on his."
Michael Waltrip, No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 7th)
"I've just been missing a little something today. I've been trying to explain to the crew what I'm lacking. I just can't get the front end to stick like I need to. But then when we loosened it up to make the front-end stick better, the back end wants to get out. We just could never get the combination exactly right for the NAPA Chevrolet. All in all though, I guess we're not bad.
"Steve Park tire tested here and he was really happy with his car and he brought us back that information and we applied it to our set-up. For some reason, with what I need, and what I was feeling, I really could never relate it to the team to get them to fix it the way I needed it. I had plenty of leg in it, it just didn't sit right.
How are the track conditions?
"It feels like a country road in Kentucky to me. It's bumpy. That is not a bad thing. Ultra smooth tracks sometimes promote nose-to-tail no racing. This one definitely wouldn't fall into that category. But you've got this beautiful facility with grass, all the parking. People are here. The infield, the garage. You go down into turn one and it looks like a gravel road down there. Again, I'm not kidding. We need tracks like this. It's not a bad thing."
-Team Monte Carlo
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo (pole-sitter) continued media center comments:
"It really felt good. We were looking at Texas as an opportunity to run well. We've had four runs this year and me and the team are really working good together, better than last year. We've got our cars to drive better. Maybe this weekend will be the weekend we can go home happy and celebrate a victory of our own. Anything, really, would be cool.
"It was a good lap. The car was comfortable this morning. We were going out pretty early. We were going out sixth and I didn't think we'd have a shot at the pole. I knew there were some guys a little bit quicker than us in practice. As it got cooler, I guess the track got away from everybody. But I'm pretty happy and pretty surprised to be sitting here."
Is this as perfect a lap as you could get here?
"I think a lot of people have pointed out some things such as the track conditions and other things like that that might be working against their common goal to run a comfortable lap and a fast lap. I don't think it's really every greatly comfortable in qualifying trim. We raced so good here and we were so dominant in the race last year that I look back on how the drove then versus on how the car drove today and I keep wanting to complain, but then again, your qualifying trim is really not going to be comfortable. I was a little bit free. The back end was stepping out a little bit in the center of the corner. But other than that, I'm pretty happy. I know I could have went faster. The car wasn't perfect."
Are you getting more into thinking about racing again?
"No, not really. It's going to be a long, long time before all that happens. You just deal with it how you have to deal with it and everybody has their own way. I try to deal with it the best way I can. I think about him (Dale Earnhardt) all the time, and it seems like there's good days and bad days. Just when you think you're beginning to feel better about it, you'll hit a bump in the road and you'll spend two or three days where you can't think about nothing else. I don't know how long that'll be, but it's not such a bad thing because I like to think about him often."
Do you enjoy the crowd's reaction to you?
"Yeah, I've spoke about it quite a bit. It really surprises me. We walk out on pit road to go qualify, and you never really realize how many people are paying attention and know what's going on and know what the situation is. We walk out on pit road and the people really had a great, positive reaction. Just the fans in the grandstands really pumps you up. It gives you a good feeling to go out there and give them something more to cheer about. We go out there and qualify and everybody seems to be pretty happy. It was like a high-speed wave. That's what my PR man says. But it's really cool. I hate to keep rambling about it, but it really does a lot for you and makes you feel good inside."
Is racing more of a relief now for you than it was?
"Yeah, that's a good question. It's something that would really take me a long time to explain. It's the way I look at racing, the way I feel about racing, the way I feel about going to the track on the weekends, the way I think about it, the way I prepare myself for each race is totally different than before. Some of the aspects about racing that were huge to me a year ago, don't really matter any more. And then there's things that didn't ever think I'd appreciate that I appreciate. You know I raced for three years in the Busch Series and the Winston Cup Series and the majority of my enjoyment was how proud my father got and to see him happy after a win. That's not there no more. So I guess I'm doing it now like everybody else is now - just out there trying to make a living. It's definitely different, how I feel about it. It's not less important than it used to be, it's just different."
It's a long race season. Can you do anything to avoid the burnout?
"The source of the problem is me and my cousin and my car chief, Tony Eury, Jr. We're about the same age. We grew up together and basically have the same attitude about a lot of things. Sometimes mine was bad and then his was bad about the same and that didn't always work out. As the year went on last year, we just really got immature about things and we blew up in front of our crewmembers and really confused everybody. It was terrible. But we've really maintained this attitude this year that no matter what, we had to work together and we got to make this happen. If we're failing, we've got to continue to try, try. You've got to have a patient attitude about it and we both see that in each other every day that we're working together. Every time that he comes to the window to talk to me about something after I make a run, you can see it in his eyes. I think he can see it in mine. We've really got to be more mature about the situation and realize we're in a man's sport and we've got to act accordingly. It's really made a big difference this year. I know it's early in the season and we've got two more races (on the schedule) to go this year, but I think we'll be quite a bit different. I think we'll feel different about how we're doing things. I already see a slight difference. Those little things really add up. You see one little thing on your mind that bugs you. It really builds up into something more. We're not going to deal with that any more and I think we've made some big improvements."