NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Aaron's 499
Topics: Aaron's 499
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
April 26, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We are going to roll into our post-race press conference here at the Dreams Come True Aaron's 499 at Talladega. We are pleased to be joined by our third-place finisher, Ryan Newman, driving the No. 39 Chevrolet Prelude to the Dream and top Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Scott Speed, finished fifth. And first I'll start with Ryan. Your thoughts about how the afternoon went for you.
RYAN NEWMAN: We, Tony and I and Biffle, just rode around in the back and kind of expecting what happened to happen, and it did. Just kept our nose clean for the most part. Tried to get some track position, and had some help here and there.
But Denny Hamlin pushed me to the front, and Junior was very honorable and stuck to his word and pushed me on that last re start, and really didn't expect the 09 and 99 to come the way they did. I was wide open, and Junior was pushing me pretty much all the way around the racetrack.
Congratulations to Brad on his first win. It's a tough way to earn one that way, but he's standing in victory lane, and just a good, solid finish.
When I saw Carl flying up in front of me, I thought he was actually going to spin down to the bottom and the back of the car caught air. We've seen that two times this weekend, 16 and now the 99, so maybe we need to look at some things to keep the cars back down on the ground. But bottom line was, kept my foot in it, knew I was going to bounce off the wall and still finished third. So another destroyed race car with a Top-5 finish.
THE MODERATOR: Scott Speed, outstanding job out there today, fifth place finish, top Raybestos Rookie candidate in that Red Bull Toyota. Your thoughts?
SCOTT SPEED: Kind of got a headache, honestly, I've been hit around so much. It's a crazy race, everyone is beating each other so much. I think for 90 percent of the race, I was just happy standing in the back of the pack because they are so aggressive.
As it turned out, it's very difficult to get, I found, throughout the whole race, even when I was trying to go to the front, anyone to help and push. I was really lucky Kyle was there at the end to push me to the front, otherwise I'm sure we would have been struggling like everyone else. As it happened, the way it worked out, I had a good pusher to bring me to the front when it counted, so really lucky, honestly.
Q. Ryan, you've done enough of these races here at Talladega to know better. Is this one in a league of its own as far as how crazy it got?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yes and no. I've seen them real crazy here before. To have the big wreck -- the first big wreck we had, I didn't see what happened. I can't comment on that, if it was somebody's mistake or just a product of the environment.
But it was -- I would say it was just crazy at different times, and you had to be at the right place to miss it and you had to be in the right place to take advantage of it.
Q. And for Scott, you've done a lot of crazy things; does this top your list now?
SCOTT SPEED: I don't know about that. I mean, as fast as Formula 1 is, I mean, the racing isn't the same as NASCAR. It not the big wrecks, even though the speed is so high. For me, it almost even feels safer, because we are going so fast in such close quarters, especially in a track like this. To me this is definitely on edge. This is the most intense thing that I've experienced in my racing career for sure.
Q. When you walked in, Carl was on TV and he said, "We'll race like this till we kill somebody." And then you said Talladega stands for, "We'll race like -- we will wreck, we just don't know when." Do you like this? Are you sick of this? What would you like to see done?
RYAN NEWMAN: The one thing that stands out in my mind is two days in a row, like I've said, we've certain a car turned around and get upside down. We need to go back, not to the drawing board, develop  so roof flats or something to keep the cars on the ground; that's one thing not just for the drivers, but for the fans, as well. That's one thing that stands out.
The racing, it's 50/50. If you are up front and you get the advantage of having Junior behind you to push you, it's enjoyable as can be. But at the same time, you just don't know what's going to happen and when. You know, you can be running the perfect race, and be keeping your nose clean and be caught up in somebody else's accident. So it's just different. It's difficult. You know, it it's a 50/50 crapshoot if you ask me.
Q. Two questions, please. Because of today, and yesterday, does it leave you wondering what it takes to win a race here? You're leading on the lead lap in both of these things and it didn't happen. Can you just speak to that disappointment?
RYAN NEWMAN: I was lucky today I felt. I didn't think my car was as good today as yesterday but at the same time I was put in the right position by the right situations and Hamlin pushed me up to the front and Junior like I said, he stuck to his word and pushed me all the way around to that restart and didn't expect the 09 and 99 to get hooked up and go as quick as they did.
Finally looked like we had a good run coming to them and coming back to the line, and thankfully the line was where it was today instead of yesterday, and you know, the 09 and 99 got together and who knows what would have happened if I would have went low. But either way, I'm not disappointed by any means, finishing second and third here, knowing what all happened these last two days.
Q. And the other thing is relating to the last crash; did you see Carl's car at all coming through your windshield?
RYAN NEWMAN: Oh, yeah, absolutely. As crazy as it is, I thought about that stuff two, three restarts before. Dale Junior is sitting here, the bar in the center of the car is called the Earnhardt Bar for a reason. We've had cars close to coming through there before. That Earnhardt Bar stood up for me today.
And like I said, NASCAR has got to do their job to get the cars on the ground and their job to make the cars safer. I noticed my windshield bed pulled away, and Carl Edwards windshield bed pulled away. Whatever we can do to keep making the cars safer, because I'm pretty sure that we are coming back to Talladega, and I'm pretty sure that we are coming back to restrictor plates, and I'm pretty sure that we are coming back to three-wide and four-wide for most of the races. What we can do to make everybody safer is what we need to do to come out of here today.
THE MODERATOR: We have our race runner-up Dale Earnhardt, Junior, drives the No. 88 National Guard/Amp Energy for Hendrick Motorsports. Your thoughts about how today's race unfolded.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I felt like it was a pretty good race. It was wild and we had some wrecks, especially the first one that was not quite seemingly necessary. Everybody was running really, really hard. I was all in there pushing people around, too. We just wrecked a bunch of cars a couple times.
But you could tell -- you could tell when everybody saw we needed to settle down and we all would just kind of ride single-file for a while and take it easy. You could pass a little bit and have some fun and see what happened if you went to the bottom or whatever, but everybody was just taking their cars to the end of the race. We were lucky to get the cautions at the end, because I felt like yesterday me and Ryan had a plan and we didn't do it right.
So I felt like today, we had another shot at it, a better shot at it, and we almost made it work, but the 99 and Brad hooked up and, I don't know, they are just a little bit faster and they moved up. They were coming -- they were catching us and running the middle, and the middle had been a little quicker.
So they just did -- I guess we showed our hand a little early, maybe a lap or two too early and everybody saw what they was going to have to do if they wanted a shot at winning. Our car ran great all weekend and we qualified good and handled, you know, about like everybody else's car, they all handled the same.
And the engine was great, pushed Ryan there for four laps, and it didn't blow up. It was running about 260 on an oval, and it held for about a lap and a half like that. I was just glad to get a good finish. I was just concentrating on trying to win, what should I do, where should I be, but I didn't want to screw myself out of a good finish if that was all I was going to be dealt, and I got lucky and came home with some points.
Q. Can you guys kind of put a finger on how much of this is due to the rule that you can't go under the yellow line, especially when you have 200 yards to the finish, and you're wondering where to go, how to go, what to do to get there without going under the line and still salvaging a good finishing position?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I kind of like the yellow-line rule. I think that the drivers have begun to understand what it means.
I think that you can't necessarily blame what happened at the finish of the race on the yellow-line rule. Guys have been running over each other for years. So I mean, guys get into each other way before we had yellow line rules.
But I like the rule, and I would hate to think that I had to block people on the apron and every which way to try to win the race on the last lap; if that rule wasn't in place, you wouldn't know where to go to try to protect your position.
Q. Carl Edwards said after the race, NASCAR put us in this box, we'll race like this until we kill someone and NASCAR will change it; do you agree with what Carl said and with what Ryan said about maybe changing the cars around?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, Carl was the one upside down. I would probably be speaking in the same tone if I was him. I wish that -- I won't say that I agree or disagree with either one of them.
I agree with Ryan, cars don't need to go up in the air, for sure. But if we slow them down to keep that from happening, we are going to be more in position with Carl's claim and complaint.
So that's what we did; we slowed them down and did all of these things with the plates and roof flaps and stuff like that to keep cars on the ground and keep them under a certain speed that we felt was the right speed to keep cars from getting airborne. Now we are pack racing so badly that it's just about all you can do to not be wrecked or get in a wreck.
I think a lot of guys had cut tires because we was bouncing into each other. The 17 had a cut tire because we were bump drafting so hard. It just pushed the damn quarterpanel down on his tire. And I know a couple other guys had that.
I wish we could get away from each other a little bit. I wish it came down to handling a little bit. I wish it came down to power a little bit. Everybody can basically have the same power; we are going so slow that there's no challenge in handling. So everybody has the same piece, you know. We are all sort of working with the same equipment, and what equivolates to Iroq cars at Talladega.
Now at Daytona the handle comes into play and you see that, and it makes it fun. Maybe it's not as -- that kind of racing right there is as exciting as hell to watch, but I don't -- I've wrecked two or three times since this finish here trying to finish one of these COT races and I get wrecked every damn time.
But I wish we could get away from each other a little bit somehow or another. I don't know how you're going to do that and keep them under the speed so we don't turn into airplanes every time we spin out.
Q. Scott, beginning of the race, y'all started a lap down and then throughout much of the day, y'all were where back off the lead back. I just wanted to know what you attribute that to, was it the car, or were you trying to get a handle of the restrictor plate stuff or just biding your time?
SCOTT SPEED: Did you see how many crashes they had? Honestly I was just trying to stay as far back as I could without losing the pack.
I mean, it just seemed like, you know, at one point in the race right after we got our lap back, we drove our way back up and we are running second with a caution to go, and we ended up staying out to take five points for being in the lead lap. I thought our car was good but I didn't want to be in the middle of sort of the eye of the storm and I wanted to do my best to stay as far back as possible without losing it.
Q. Seems like we have a new phenomena with the COT, a two-car train that's faster than a long line of car, something that theoretically you could not do in the old car and you can do well in this car. It was absolutely incredible to see Carl and Brad get by you guys when they were way back with half a lap to go, just because of the two-car train thing. Is that something we are going to see more of now? Is that what you're going to look to do?
RYAN NEWMAN: Used to be more so. It started that Super Speedway cars, you could not hit each other because you knocked the nose in and figured out if you beef up the front of the car you could hit the guy behind you. Then they figured out, well, the guy behind you is getting hit so hard, it's not backing the car down so they fixed that part and they went to the new car. And the evolution has changed to the point where the front and rear bumpers align so well we can ride each other's bumpers around the racetrack. And.
This car as had opened a can of worms in respect to letting us to do that. You can do it somewhat with what I experienced yesterday with the Nationwide car, but has different aerodynamic characteristics with the wickers and whatnot. I don't know if that's a one-to-one comparison.
Bottom line is, that's the way we have to do it sometimes now, and as we saw, you put two cars together, sometimes they are a little quicker than the other two cars and that's what made the difference in the race.
Q. Because you have the experience, some people talk about what this type of racing does. With what happened today with Carl's car, does this need to be a wake-up call for changes, or would that be an overreaction to what we saw at the end and with what we have seen here in the past?
RYAN NEWMAN: There's no such thing as overreaction when it comes to safety. For not just, like I said, not just us, but the fans as well. Just the bottom line is, whatever we can do to make it safer for everybody, that's what we need to do. And yesterday and today were two things that I'm sure NASCAR will spend some time looking at, replaying some videos and watching what the cars do and let their engineers figure out what we can do to try to help the situation.
It's just, I don't know, it's just crazy being up here the example. I'm just lucky to be able to cross the start/finish line, I feel.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I feel the same way. You have to understand that, like, for years, we have had wrecks like this every time we come to Talladega ever since the plate got here and for years it was celebrated. The media celebrated it, the network celebrated it, calling it the big one, just trying to attract attention and trying to bring people's attention to the race.
So there's a responsibility with the media and the networks and the sanctioning body itself to come to their senses a little bit and think about, you know, the situation. But I mean, you know, you can't sit here and jump up and go, wow, what I saw today was crazy. I don't think it's right, unless you're a driver, because the media and the networks and everybody has been celebrating that stuff for years.
I think that you have to -- I think we have been saying this for years, racing like this is not a whole lot of fun. It's just something we have to do because we have to go out there and race. We can't -- everybody has got to go race when the damn green flag drops, but this is the way it's been for a long time. Didn't just happen. Didn't just get worse. Didn't just start happening. It's been like this since the mid-90s.
Q. Couldn't help but notice you've watched some of the TVs so you've actually seen that last crash, I'm assuming you've seen the last crash there. Does it look as bad on TV as it did inside the car? And also for junior, were you surprised that Brad pushed Carl to the front, and by you, the way he did?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't know about the wrecks. Go ahead.
RYAN NEWMAN: I saw the left rear tire coming right towards my windshield. So, yeah, it was bad. You're running 195, but I knew the glancing below off the wall was going to be no piece of cake, either. Just happy that the guys at Stewart Haas do a good job on my seats and everything.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I didn't have Ryan's point of view, but they are coming to -- I never saw the two leaders get together, because I couldn't see through Ryan's car, and I told Tony Junior, who had a great seat. I said: I can't see past the 39, so tell me if they are wrecking or what's going on, because I can't -- I don't know which way to dodge or what to do.
He said, "They are wrecking, so go low."
I didn't see the 99. The 99 didn't come into view until Ryan moved to the high side to go around him. I made the -- I was fortunate where Ryan was unfortunate. I saw them coming on the outside for a couple of corners, what seemed like laps, it seemed like it was 100 laps watching them catch us, and I'm thinking, man, I'm right into Ryan as hard as I can and pushing as hard as I can go, and we were not smart enough to run in the middle like they did.
So you saw everybody making pretty good gains on the middle groove and the top groove all day, and that was what they did. They ran in the middle as they caught us, and they had more momentum and they had less steering wheel in the car on the exit, and the cars were able to accelerate better off the corner. I was just hoping they would break apart once they passed us. I was hoping that Ryan's car would disturb the 09 enough to break them apart, but it didn't.
We almost got back to them, but I was --
RYAN NEWMAN: We did.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was nervous at that point, because if we were running them back down, we were catching them at a pretty good pace and I didn't know when to lift because I was pushing Ryan. I was like, I really don't -- I can't see past Ryan. I don't want to run him into the back of somebody that's blocking really badly.
So it was a tough little situation to be in.
Q. As far as Brad?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: What can you say about him? He's got a lot of talent and a good future. Did he an amazing job in a car that even the owner will admit probably isn't the best thing out there.
But with that said, James has put a lot into his program this year, with working with Rick and buying certain vehicles from Rick. I mean, James has put a lot into -- he deserves what he got today for what he's been able to put into the sport to compete, what money he's spent.
So I'm really proud. I've gotten to know him much better over the last couple of years. He did an awesome job today putting Brad in the car this year and giving him an opportunity to run some. It's got to be an amazing feeling for Brad and his family.
Q. As Carl and Brad were coming by, you moved to the outside. With all of the blocking, there was a lot of it, was there anything you could have done to slow him down?
RYAN NEWMAN: To slow the 99, the '09 and the 99? It's hard. It's really hard when you have somebody pushing as hard as Junior was me to have much control of the steering. I'm guiding myself, but I'm being guided by him at the same time, because the rear tires are not touching the racetrack the way they usually do.
I tried to move up once and they had such a good head of steam coming that it was just, man, it's like we could potentially cause a crash here, and one of us might make it out of it, but at the same time, like he said, we had plenty of time still to race it out. And they were coming back to us as we were coming back to the trial over there and they got together.
Only reason I went high was I saw the 99 get turned and as he got turned I didn't anticipate him going all the way around. I anticipated him steering down to the bottom. And basically Brad just kept his foot in it, which I wasn't thinking at the time and that turned the 99 backwards and up in the air.
SCOTT SPEED: I've got a question. When you hit him, did you stay on the gas to the finish line? I was wondering, was the motor still running?
RYAN NEWMAN: Never checked up when I got down. Carburetor was gone -- I downshifted because I didn't have any brakes and I went to downshift it and started taking off again so I had to hit the kill switch button on the steering wheel.
Q. Can you put on your engineer's cap real quick and tell us if they let you play around with these cars, what changes you might make?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think they adapted the principles from the old-style cars -- you're talking about the cars getting airborne, I assume?
RYAN NEWMAN: Okay. I would assume they just adapted their principles and the locations of the old-style car to this new-style car when it comes to the roof flaps and the cowl flaps and the things like that.
This car punches an entirely different type of hole in the air and the bumpers are a good bit different on it. So maybe a little bit of engineering needs to go back into the size of the cowl flaps, the placement of the cowl flaps and potentially additional flaps in general just to be able to slow the cars down immediately once they get turned around or sideways or create more -- I guess you call it reverse downforce when the cars are going backwards.
Q. Speaking of Stroker Ace, we had the Ricky/Bobby moment. Did you guys see Carl run down the track so he could cross the finish line?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Are you serious?
RYAN NEWMAN: He was on fire.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You're lying. Did he take like part of the car with him, drove it across the line? (Laughter) That's amazing.
SCOTT SPEED: That's awesome.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Scott has never seen Stroker Ace. So one of you guys ought to bring him a copy next week. He doesn't know what we are talking about. (Laughter) I'd bring him a copy but I think y'all should. It would be a nice gift from one of you guys.
Q. Looked like Brad watched the replay of the Regan Smith deal last year with Tony. Is that anything you've talked about, whether running the Nationwide race or if the situation is there, to say there?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I didn't tell him to do that, no. He did what he -- he did what he had to do and won the race, and stood his ground. There's two sides to every argument. You could see both: If Carl didn't agree with it, you could understand where he was coming from and Brad did what he had to do to win the race and you can't take that away from him.
No, we don't really talk too much about racing in general. I think he's just really good observing what's going on around him, watching other people, learning from other drivers, learning from other experiences that happened around him and to him. He just takes everything that happens and he learns from most everything that he gets himself involved in when it comes to driving.
Q. Carl said he's got no problem --
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Sure. It was just hard racing. It's unfortunate, you know, that Carl's car reacted the way it did once it did get turned around, because that's just a scary situation, especially or everybody on the front straightaway there.
Q. With this issue coming up, two straight races at this track, is the yellow-line rule making this happen? Would they have happened if you could have gone below the yellow line?
RYAN NEWMAN: The yellow line has nothing to do with that. They could put up a wall on the inside of the racetrack that says: You're going hit the wall if you go this low. It has nothing to do with that. It's just we need to keep the cars down on the ground once they get turned around.
It's just the way the cars are. We saw Kenseth's car yesterday get turned around spinning to the right and we saw Carl's car get turned around today spinning to the left. Obviously both situations need a little bit of work. We could hit here and talk about it till we are blue in the face. We have to go back in the drawing board and do some work on the race cars or potentially look at what work we need to do on the race cars before we overreact as well.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Think back over eight, ten years ago, and remember why the yellow-line rule was brought in in the first place, and you watch a lot of races just prior to that rule coming into the sport. You'll see that there are as many potentially accidents that could be caused without the rule as could be blamed on the rule.
So if we don't have it, there's a lot of stuff that would be going on that you didn't see today that would be causing just as much trouble and drama.
RYAN NEWMAN: Were there any yellow-line infractions today? I didn't hear of anybody.
THE MODERATOR: I don't believe so, Ryan. One warning.
RYAN NEWMAN: One warning? There you go.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, guys, thank you very much. We'll see you in Richmond.
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