NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 1
Topics: Gatorade Duel
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
February 16, 2006
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Joining us, third place finisher in the duel today, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver. No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet.
Dale, talk about your run out there today.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We started off the race real, real tight. We've been fighting tight in the practices we've had. Car got real, real tight. Just, you know, got -- we didn't really fall to the back on purpose. We just couldn't get the car turned (inaudible) around a lot. I was having to lift a lot to keep from hitting the wall.
We made the change on that first opportunity to get tires. That helped the car quite a bit. Obviously, we was able to get back to the top five or up in the top five. We still got some work to do. Still I'm not real happy with the way the car handles. But Tony, Jr. and them guys understand what we need to do. We'll talk and practice a little bit more.
I know we can get it worked out. So I'm pretty excited about, you know, coming up. I think the car runs great. We just weren't able -- you know, you guys want us to get out there and run up front, show whether we're dominant or not. But we got a great car. We get our turn we'll be able to do that.
Q. Did you have enough to get up to the front?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, we had enough race car, just not enough time. We got a couple good shoves there at the end. I was able to get side by side with Carl coming to the line. I feel like Jimmie would have helped me in the case if he had to choose between the two.
We might have been able to make a stab at the 38 there. We just didn't have enough laps. We had a pretty good car. We still were pretty tight there at the end to make the kind of runs we're accustom to making on people, having the kind of car we're accustom to having.
CARL EDWARDS: Nice suit (smiling).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Thank you.
Q. Dale, was there as much bumping going on and did you guys take to heart what Mike Helton said before the race?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: You know what, it goes back to what type of race the shootout is, what type of race you got to expect when you're running the sprint for 200 grand, whatever it pays.
It's just like the All-Star race and the 600, big difference there between the mentality and attitudes out on the racetrack. I don't know what the big surprise is. So, you know, when we got to these 125s or 150 qualifiers, you're going to take care of your car. Your car is going to push, handle bad. You ain't going to be able to get up on people like you can in the shootout. The 500 will be the same way. We'll make pit stops and stuff like that under green. Just the different race, and it was.
THE MODERATOR: Joining us we have Carl Edwards, second place finisher in today's first duel, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford. Talk about your run.
CARL EDWARDS: It was a lot of fun. Like he says, it's a lot different than the shootout. You know, got long enough into the tire run, everybody got strung out. I started having to lift. Actually made adjustments to the car to free it up and stuff.
It's pretty fun racing. I was excited to finish second. Was neat to see a Ford Fusion get to victory Lane this early. Just in general, fun.
Q. Can you just talk about what you think the usefulness of this race is now that they've changed the format.
CARL EDWARDS: Go ahead, buddy (smiling).
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I think that they need to go back to the way they used to do it as far as letting the first race be the inside line, the second race be the outside line. This will be the only race we run qualifying races, this should be the only race that would be different in how they line up the field.
It's very confusing for the drivers.
CARL EDWARDS: How does it work? Where do we start?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think we're all right. I think we're going to start third and fifth. I don't know, the 38's on the pole, right?
CARL EDWARDS: Are we fifth and seventh?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, it ain't (smiling).
CARL EDWARDS: It's confusing. But we're on the inside. That's good.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah. It gets confusing when who is locked in the field, who is not locked in the field, who is racing in. Last year, the most ridiculous thing I ever saw when they sent Robby home after he finished in the top 10. Got to get rid of stuff like that.
Q. With all the "to do" about these orange lines on the track, bump-drafting, seems like kind of a non-story. Do you think everybody was on their best behavior?
CARL EDWARDS: I was trying my hardest, you know, just to follow all the rules. You know, I feel like they made it pretty clear. It was made clear to me that, you know -- not to go under that line.
I don't know, it seemed like it was pretty calm, everybody did a good job.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah. I mean, I knew the mentality was different. The shootout is a night race. Hell, we all came from night racing, banging Saturday night, a lot of money, a little bit of time to get it, a lot of hungry drivers ain't been on the racetrack all winter.
CARL EDWARDS: That sounds like a country song right there (smiling). That's good.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Never know.
Q. Dale, do you wish that maybe nothing had been said at all about this bump-drafting stuff? They're just going to create a problem that wasn't intended to be?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, it creates, you know -- you know, it comes down to, you know, knowing what you're doing out there. There's guys where, you know, not naming any names obviously, but there's guys out there you don't want to get bump-drafts from, and there's guys you're glad to see in your mirror and know they know how to bump-draft. I like getting bump-drafts when it's done for the purpose of improving both our positions.
A lot of guys rear back, just slam you. They don't go anywhere. Hell, if you can hang on, you might get a little bit out of it. For the most part it don't do anybody any good when you do that.
You know, I think the veterans need to stand up a little bit and talk to some of the rookies coming into the sport. Obviously, they'll talk about it in the rookie meetings and stuff. Obviously, maybe they don't talk enough about it. Rookie meetings used to handle that kind of stuff. Get some of these guys walking around in the garage, talk to some of these drivers, if they'll listen. That usually fixes the problem in NASCAR. Normally you don't have to step in.
Q. Dale, a week ago before you even got on the track media day, you said you had the car to beat. Are you tempering that at all after what happened out there today?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I feel pretty good about my car. If we can get it to rotate in a corner, get around a corner, we got a fast race car, good enough car to win. I was really, really tight out there. I was having to run lines I don't want to run, don't normally like to run to get the car to go around the corner. A lot of times, you know, like that first run, we were second to last there for a long time, all the way to the end of it.
We got a better car than that. We just got to work on it, needs a little bit of practice we have left.
Q. Can both you talk about what you saw as far as the debris at the start/finish line with a couple of laps remaining.
CARL EDWARDS: You mean under green or the yellow?
Q. Under yellow.
CARL EDWARDS: Elliott Sadler was slowing down to go through it, I just followed him. I didn't really see it that well.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I was going to follow him. Right out of the corner of my eye I saw I had a car beside me, which was not -- I wasn't expecting it to be there because we were under caution. I had to go somewhere else. I don't know how the banging got going on.
We run the caution. Like I say, I mean, a lot of guys are rusty. Everybody is on top of each other, trying to get the best position they can. Maybe just a little too anxious there in the back.
Q. Dale, Jimmie Johnson said the other day that every crew chief out there bends the rules a little bit. Do you agree with that? Do you think that's why there was no outcry when Jimmie got caught?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think the outcry, there was no outcry because, you know, there was more stories that kind of overshadowed that, the bump-drafting, there was something else. Obviously, the tribute, the three tributes that have been on TV and all that stuff.
I think, you know, a lot of things have overshadowed what Chad did. Guys get cheating all the time. I think what Chad did is nothing new in the garage. That's all I really got to say about it.
Q. You guys are guaranteed in the show already. Therefore, is there any luster lost at all with the duel, maybe the way it used to be with the top 35 rule? Still looks like you're racing pretty hard.
CARL EDWARDS: Any time you get out, open the racetrack, they throw that white flag, I mean, it's fun to race.
I was thinking about it when we were sitting on pit road. Just to be able to race for a qualifying spot, starting spot, is kind of neat. You have the ability to set up the beginning of your Daytona 500 the way you want it. To me, I thought it was a pretty useful race. We wouldn't have started that far up front.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's kind of heat racing. Heat races are a blast, always enjoy running in a heat race. Gives you an idea about your competition going into the 500. You get to learn a little bit about your car obviously.
I think any time you line us up, we're going to go for it. I think the qualifying deal, the rules they have now, it takes a little bit away from what it means, other than win it.
CARL EDWARDS: They used to just start 'em?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: -- basically last. Provisionals, 36 on back, you got provisionals. From the first 36, third to 36, inside was the first race, outside was the second.
Q. NASCAR is already working on revisions at the R&D center to the bumper. By the time we get to Talladega, may not have to worry about spotters and the no zones. Do you think that should happen?
CARL EDWARDS: All I know about those zones, I wasn't exactly sure where they were. I slid up in front of you off of two that one time, I was like, "He's coming, I think we're in one of those zones."
Bam, "No, we must be out of it (laughter)."
That orange thing went, wham.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: He wasn't paying attention. I just passed (smiling).
CARL EDWARDS: Very astute observation.
I don't know what the question was.
Q. NASCAR is talking about revisions at Talladega so it won't be in the driver's hands about the bump-drafting.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: They can change the bumpers and stuff. We'll still run into each other with them 'cause that's what we do. You know, it will change how the cars overheat and all that stuff.
I think it's best left in the driver's hands and the crew's hands on how they handle this issue.
I don't think that NASCAR can step in and make any improvements. They'll probably make the situation a whole lot worse for all of us anyways.
If you can't -- if you can't get up against somebody and push 'em a little bit down the back straightaway, it's going to be real hard to pass. Guys just get stuck side by side. If you watch any of these races out here, you see these guys when they're side by side, it takes somebody to push them back. If you take that away, I don't know what we'll be doing.
Q. Are there times out there when you're in this race, you look around and say, "I just passed four guys"? Do you feel you're in control or do you do the best you can, look around, say, "How did that work?"
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm glad you're answering this one.
CARL EDWARDS: Every once in a while, it just depends on the situation. There's always guys who run well at these places. There has to be some amount of driver input there. There's guys who historically run great. But sometimes, yeah, you can do everything in the world, and it doesn't work. Sometimes, you know, like today one lap I thought I was going to wreck, two laps later I passed a few people. It's like, "How did that happen?"
Just kind of depends. But on average, I think the driver has a great deal of input here.
Q. Carl, Tony Stewart and a couple other guys were talking earlier today before the race about how it's really a matter of respect on the racetrack, giving the other guy a little room when you can. The biggest problem Tony said was that guys aren't giving the other drivers respect. As one of the young guys coming into the sport, how do you feel about that?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. It's really a hard thing to balance. For me coming in the sport, I don't really have much to rest on. I have to go out and do the job. So you're caught there. You got a guy like, for instance, Denny Hamlin did such a great job the other night, he's got to go out there and make something happen. He's the only guy who can drive that car.
It's really tough in a competition to make something happen and do your job for your team, and at the same time give something to somebody else trying to beat. It's a real fine line to walk.
I know for me personally, I just try to be -- I've been trying a lot more lately to try to be a lot more respectful for the first 90% of the race and then just racing real hard at the end. It's a tough place to be in for a rookie.
Q. Can you size up the field? You were talking about you kind of had an idea of who was where, what they had. Obviously, all the sandbagging has been put aside. Who is going to be your competition on Sunday?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Typical people. Roush, Hendrick, Yates, Gibbs. Pretty much all those guys.
Q. Any dark horses?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, dark horses? I don't really see any.
Q. Is it possible for a crew chief to make a change to a car, like Chad did, and then not tell you that they're going to make that change to the car?
CARL EDWARDS: Happens to me all the time (smiling). Not changes like that particularly.
Crew chief going to make a change, usually they share it. I don't know. What do you think?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I don't think so. I mean, in a situation like that, your crew chief, no matter how great a relationship he has with the driver, the less people that know about it the better. If you're cheating, the less people know about it, the better. You're not going to tell your driver. At least I wouldn't. I wouldn't tell anybody.
Q. Did Tony, Jr. Ever tell you to cheat?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, he doesn't. He knows I got a big mouth. If he's cheating, he ain't telling me.
THE MODERATOR: Dale Jr., Carl, thanks a lot.
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