NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Gatorade Duel
Topics: Gatorade Duel 1
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
February 15, 2007
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by two drivers that qualified their way into the Daytona 500 by their performance today in the first duel, and that's Boris Said. Boris, this will be your second Daytona 500. Talk about your run out there today.
BORIS SAID: I've never raced a Saturday night short track race, but that's what I guess it would be like if I ever did it. It was a wild race and it was a lot of fun. I'm just really proud of the effort of our SoBe Energy Drink car this weekend, and we have four full-time employees back at our shop.
To come here and actually qualify on time and then to actually race our way in, to be second behind Michael of the scrubs in the 150 was a big accomplishment for us.
I know during the end of the race there are a lot of people that wanted me to pull over to try to let somebody else in, but I pretty much turned my radio down. I just wanted to race, and it was a great race. I raced my ass off today and I had a great time. I just can't believe I'm in the Daytona 500.
It just feels -- I mean, Sunday qualifying, I wasn't even happy, it just like was relief. It was like two cinder blocks falling off my shoulders, and now I feel really happy about how I ran today. I'm looking forward to Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: Michael Waltrip, driver of the No. 55 NAPA Toyota, this will be your 21st Daytona 500. Talk about your qualifying through that duel today.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, Boris and I have had exactly opposite weeks. Ever since Sunday my world has been a mess, and ever since Sunday he's been walking around with a smile on his face, and so I really -- I'm really thankful that my wife Buffy and Mr. Helton and Mr. Illingworth, several people that I really respect and love, talked me into staying here because I didn't want to tank this wonderful race, and I just didn't know if my car on the track would be right.
But I missed all the practice and I started last, and we still made it. So we'll look forward to Sunday. All three of our Toyota Camries are in the race, and that's pretty cool. I'm probably the most depressing guy you've ever seen make the Daytona 500.
Q. Michael, after you had the incident with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., were you beginning to think there was like a cloud over your head or something? That couldn't have really boosted your spirits too much.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, that was a mistake. I was down low and they went around the top and I was going to -- I first thought I might get in between them and I changed my mind, but from the time I decided to do it and the time I changed my mind, turning the steering wheel didn't help me -- didn't keep me from running into him.
I'm just glad he got through it. He's spun me out before, though, so I knew he wouldn't be too mad.
Q. Boris, what is the history of this particular car, and secondly, after your strong run in July, I mean, do you really have confidence that you can be a factor Sunday now?
BORIS SAID: I mean, that's probably a long shot to be a factor to win the race, but I have a legitimate shot at top 10 or 15, and for me in my third time here I think that would be a pretty big accomplishment. There's a lot of really good guys. Last year in July we used a little pit strategy to be up front and it handled good and we were ahead with two laps to go and that was a pretty special feeling, something I'll never forget. For sure I have a 1 in 43 chance to win on Sunday and that's a better chance than I've had.
Q. What's the history of the car?
BORIS SAID: That was an old Roush car we leased last year for the July race, and when we came down for the July race that was our only car. We didn't have a backup. Over the winter we built a new one and bought this one from them and the new car in the wind tunnel was supposed to be better and faster and we came down and tested it and it was three and a half tenths slower than this old car.
There's something about it. It handles great. A lot of that credit goes to Frankie Stoddard. He's won this race before and he's won 14 or 15 Cup races. To have a guy like that is -- pretty much all the success to this type of stuff is to really him, not me.
Q. Michael, can you describe your feelings once you crossed the finish line and you realized you were in the race? And also, how long did it take them to let you know that Boris' finish got David into the race?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: They told me about the time I crossed the start finish line. They were pretty quick to tell me that. You know, I was pretty confident that with my buddy Schrader behind me when we had that green white checkered if I didn't screw something up that I would make the race. So there wasn't really any emotion, just thankfulness that first of all I was here, and secondly, that David and Dale will put all three of our Camries in the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
Q. Michael, you were obviously very conflicted about making this race. Just trying to understand that, were you worried that NASCAR was going to throw you out? Did you maybe expect them to throw you out? And if they had done that, would you have thought that would have been justified?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: There was talk of it, and I told them that I understood. Whatever they said, I would accept, because it was just a terrible mistake. I don't need to cheat to win this race. I've done it before.
I'm just embarrassed for my organization.
On Sunday morning before I got that call, I was so proud of what we hauled down here and how it looked and how it was running, and since then it's been a little tough. But I know that we will get over this, and thanks to Buffy and the folks I talked about earlier helping me through it, the healing probably started today.
I know there's not that many Michael Waltrip fans, but I just feel sorry for them having to listen to people yell at them for stuff that happened.
Q. Michael, considering everything that's gone down the last couple days, how was your head going into this race? Was your head into the game here?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, I think race car drivers just get in their car and it doesn't take a whole lot of brains to operate after that. You know, I never thought once about all the stuff that has happened during the week. I just raced in my car, and when I got out, I didn't feel relieved or exhilarated, I just said, well, I did my job and I got a car in the race that belongs in the race.
My head is fine. You know, we've had tragic accidents, had to get in the car after the loss of a family member or a fellow driver, and this doesn't compare to that. This is just a sport.
Someone asked me yesterday was this the worst day of my life. I said, "No, my dad died a few years ago and I miss him a lot." So it ain't that big of a deal. I mean, it's a big deal, but it's not going to take my wife or kids away from me over it.
We've got all three cars in, so that will help pay the fine, so that's a start.
Q. My question is for Boris. Building up what we talked about for both of you probably, this sport is so filled with the highs are so high and the lows are so low, how do you manage that sort of on a day-to-day basis, whether you make the show or not, whether you're going to go to Fontana and run? How are you able to perform today thinking about tomorrow?
BORIS SAID: That's a good question. For me it's just I love driving. I don't care what it is, sports car, go-kart, NASCAR, it doesn't matter, I just love doing it. You know, coming into this race, for our team, there's so much pressure put on you by the sponsors to make the race that we talked about trying to do different things and maybe gray areas and push the limits because you want to just make the race. You just feel like a failure if you miss it.
And once you make the race, it's all downhill. I don't think I'd get to down on myself if I crashed the first lap of the race, but I feel really proud we're in. Just this day and age there's so much money and the sponsors and what they put behind you, it forces people to take chances and push the gray areas, and it's been going on forever in racing.
What NASCAR has done is instead of drawing a line in the sand they've drawn a big ditch and they're just not going to tolerate anything from the simplest piece of tape of whatever. As a competitor, I don't see what Michael's team did, I don't see it's any worse than what Jimmie Johnson's team did last year. If you cross the line, you cross the line. I don't think it's really a big deal.
Q. Michael, you've apologized to everybody and we commend you all for that. When your team has success this year, you, Dale or David, how are the fans not going to look down upon it? Like last year even with the year that Jimmie had, people still said at the end of the year, "He won because he cheated." What do you say to the fans when you will have success this year?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Let's worry about that when it happens. I'm confident of the integrity of my team. We hired over 200 people in the last six months, and every now and then you're going to get a sour grape. That's all that amounted to.
I agree with -- somewhat with Boris in one aspect. The gray area is one thing, but this was just -- it was dumb, first of all; and secondly, it was fuel and a motor, and you don't do that.
A piece of tape coming off and bolts drilled -- with holes drilled in them, those are things you think you might get by with. You might not think that anymore but I might think that before we got here. What we did was the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Still haven't got anybody to fess up to doing it.
Q. Boris, you said that someone had asked you to get out of line and let somebody else in. Can you talk about that?
BORIS SAID: I guess there were a lot of deals going on I didn't really know about at the end until they told me on the radio. You know, I was proud that we made the race on time, but I really wanted to -- I really wanted to race in. I didn't want to have to start 40th or 42nd when we had a car good enough to start in the top 25.
I was into racing out there. It was just crazy. So I just didn't pay any attention to it and just decided that wherever I race is wherever I finish, and I'm not going to make any deals for anything.
Q. Michael, with Dale, Sr.'s accident in 2001 and the rain in 2003 and now you making the field but having the suspension story and everything else, what is it about this race? How do you feel that every time there's something nice that happens here that there's always a cloud over it, something overshadowing?
THE MODERATOR: Did you hear the question?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I heard it. I don't feel like answering it, though.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Michael. Thanks, Boris.
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