Dale Earnhardt, Jr. , No. 5 National Guard Monte Carlo SS, finished third in the Camping World 300 presented by Chevrolet for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Daytona International Speedway.: HERB BRANHAM: We're ready to start our post-race ...
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. , No. 5 National Guard Monte Carlo SS, finished third in the Camping World 300 presented by Chevrolet for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Daytona International Speedway.:
HERB BRANHAM: We're ready to start our post-race interviews for today's Camping World 300 presented by Chevrolet. We have our third-place finisher, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the No. 5 National Guard Chevrolet. Tell us about the run.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We kind of struggled all day running about fifth at the best. It was real slick. You know, Tony and them had fast cars. Kyle had a great car. Worked together really good at the end. We were just kind of lucky to be there behind those guys because we hadn't been there all day.
I'm just kind of really thankful for that. Get a good finish; get a good start to the season.
HERB BRANHAM: Questions for Dale.
Q: Dale, you were talking about how slick it was today. Even though it's a completely different car than you're gonna drive tomorrow, running on slick conditions, will that help you at all tomorrow to know what to expect in tomorrow's race?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't think so. These cars drive quite a bit different than the COT. This place is getting old, I reckon, starting to get worse every year. It's fun, though. The slip and sliding around and carrying on, that's challenging. But it's kind of fun really, to be honest with you. But I don't know what I learned today that I didn't already know.
Q: Would it change things if there was new pavement?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We'd all be running over each other probably.
Q: Dale, with Denny (Hamlin) winning the other day, Tony (Stewart), Kyle (Busch) running up front today, is it starting to feel like the threat from Toyota and Gibbs Racing is real?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I knew it was real when we first come down here to test. The Toyota has been fast. Those guys, you know, got the knowledge to get cars around the track, know how to get to Victory Lane. They're gonna be tough I think all year.
They build great race cars. They're a good company. I had the privilege of being able to get a good look at it one time. It's a pretty impressive place. I think they'll always be a challenge.
I didn't think they wouldn't have made the change if it wasn't for the better. It's obviously going to help them a lot over the years.
Q: Dale, where was Tony and Kyle beating you? Was it out-motoring you, out-handling you, or both?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't know. I didn't run with them enough. Their cars were really fast. They've been up front all day. I had been in the middle of, you know, the battle from second...the battle from about 4th to 15th. I'd been in that one all day long.
There at the end we got to race with them a little bit. You know, they just got good power and they build good cars. They've been getting the pole down here the last couple years. I tried - you know, I was in line there that last lap. We went down into three.
Kyle started backing up to get a run. Just as soon as he started backing up, I went to the top to just see if I had any kind of momentum. And then when he started backing up, I jerked the wheel to get back down. About spun me out. He about spun out.
You know, it seemed like to me the leader could lead after about 10 laps and everybody got some heat and time in their tires. It seemed like it was difficult to pass, and the top was really the best way to do it from where I was at.
@#Q: Other than the fact you guys like to race and this is a big weekend, if you're not learning a whole lot that will help you tomorrow, why would you race today?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was pretty happy when the race was over with, but I asked myself that question about six or seven times today (smiling).
But it is fun when you're out there competing. You know, I got to hand it to them guys that do it every week, though, like Carl and them. I don't know if I could put up with that. Makes for a long weekend just doing it once every once in a while.
Q: How has the tire wear been for you this week?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: The Nationwide tire is a harder tire. We see the centerlines still in the tire after about 10 laps. It gets hot and slick. It just won't get into the racetrack. The Cup tires are blistering a little bit.
I blistered right rear today. You know, I don't know, it is what it is. You know, the tire's not too bad if you got a good, good-handling race car. If you ain't handling good...
Today it wasn't handling good.
Q: Dale, I think yesterday you were saying that with all the slipping and sliding the cars are doing, it really was quite fun for you when you're out front, but you would hate to be doing that running kind of 15th or 20th. Did you find today it wasn't quite as much fun?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's all right. The Nationwide Series and the Nationwide field is a little bit different in competition. After a few laps, you kind of out-handle some guys, you can move away your way to the front, little bit of a draft. We were in a second pack there about middle way through the race. We were fine riding right there 'cause we weren't going to catch the leaders.
But in the Cup Series, there's tight competition, tolerance between first and last. If you're stuck in 20th, it's going to be a challenge.
@#Q: Numbers showed Gibbs cars had 15 more horsepower than Hendrick cars. Is that going to make a difference with this track tomorrow?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: They looked great in practice and they looked great in their duel. They looked strong.
But I think the field's...I think we got a great shot. I feel it's pretty even right now.
@#Q: What does making a pass to the media center for wins and running well, what does that do for you and your team, for your confidence?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I don't know. Today, you know, it was a different car, different field, different everything. Today was just going out there and just having some fun.
But, yeah, I mean, we're getting more confident as we go.
@#Q: Junior, could you elaborate on the technical issue you mentioned about inspection with your Nationwide car.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, we just got caught doing something everybody else is doing (laughter). I don't know, something on the spoiler. They took the whole thing, the spoiler, deck lid, everything. We just put one from the backup car on there. We went out there. We didn't get the springs and stuff set in there right, so we had to cut the chain on the first caution pit stop today.
The car was about three-eighths of an inch high all day. That's kind of why we were happy to kind of be third. We were kind of behind once we got caught cheating there.
Q: Dale, have you encountered or have you had any other problems with the Hendrick motors since when they had the original problems? Any other problems occurred?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No. They had it figured out in about an hour or two, what the problem was. Tore them up in qualifying and they fixed them. Weren't getting oil up on the first two or three loads on the cam and tore the loads up on the cam, which tore the lifters upd.
We put a deal in there, sort of like a sprinkler system, to help it out. Takes a little horsepower out, but we'll be all right.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks.