NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: UAW-Dodge 400
Topics: UAW-Dodge 400
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
March 2, 2008
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
THE MODERATOR: We welcome to the infield media center today's third-place finisher in the UAW Dodge 400, Greg Biffle. Greg, tell us about your run.
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I'll argue that I had the fastest racecar today on the racetrack and the driver just screwed it up. I mean, you know, I got caught speeding on pit road. I had just run the leaders down, had just caught Carl from, you know, a long ways back, a long ways back. I had come up and caught Carl. Just slid onto pit road.
You know, that apron was dustier than I thought it was. I couldn't get stopped. I got caught for speeding there, went back to 15th. Drove all the way to the front under green. Was able to get all the way back. I think I was passing for fourth or third. Then got loose off of turn two and probably should have wrecked and don't really understand why I didn't yet. Lost all my track position again. Then we had a botched-up pit stop. We screwed up one stop in the pits, and that kind of hurt us a little bit. Just never did get the track position that I needed.
But spectacular run with the car. The car was perfect all day. Made some just tiny, minor changes, half pound, quarter pound of air. Had a lot of fun. I mean, this is the most fun I've had driving a racecar in probably a year or two. A lot of times these races are real stressful, a lot of pressure. I feel really good getting out of the car right now.
Just had a lot of fun today. Just wish there had been, you know, five more laps. I was outside of the 88 there down in one and two. He got pushed up the racetrack a little bit. Came over and talked to me when he got out of the car, like a real gentleman would, a racecar driver that drives like a man, and apologized that he slipped up a little bit. I knew he was tight coming up the racetrack. Got out of the throttle a little bit and off we went.
A lot of dust still down the backstretch, I think. A lot of grease sweep. I tried the top down there. I think I just had fuzz on my tires. You know, just didn't have the grip I needed down three and four. Had a really, really fast car. Super excited about that part of it.
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by today's second-place finisher, driver of the No. 88 National Guard AMP Energy Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Dale, tell us about your run today.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Man, it's just a lot of work. Cars on top of the racetrack all day. Really couldn't get the front or the back to hook up real good. Just had to beat it down in the corner and take whatever it would give you and get the lap times you could get.
We got the car kind of good at parts of the race. Got away from that. Got worse in some parts. Started the race really loose. I was real, real happy with my car after 20 laps. I thought if I could get going there, I thought I was going to be in really good shape.
Trying to race Carl on the one restart, I spun my tires, and the 17, the 24 got around me. That was just my mistake. Then the red flag, we weren't as good on cold tires. So we were sliding around a little bit. Greg got on the outside of me and we pushed up. I seen him lift so we could get off the corner together. That was kind of cool of him, running me clean like that.
Carl wasn't going to get beat today. It's good to just put one in the bag after last week. I so desperately wanted to finish where I thought the car was capable of finishing, and we did today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Dale, even though you didn't get the win, do you feel fortunate? Even with the tire spin, you were able to avoid that crash over here and come in second?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, really fortunate. I would have talked myself into being satisfied with a top-five finish no matter where it was. After last week, I just needed to get that kind of a finish.
But, you know, we worked so hard to get into second, get by Matt. You get so mad. You know, I mean, I wanted a shot at Carl, but he was just so strong. And he kind of conceded that fact, you know, with 10 to go. You hate to see the cautions come out because you know guys are going to pull tricks out of their bags. Matt laid back a little bit on that restart when I spun my tires. I should have been laying back. I can't complain about him laying back. I was the one that should have been laying back.
Shoot, I had a shot to try to be Carl. We had some pretty good restarts during the race. I should have been paying a little more attention to what the 17 was doing, trying to lay back a little bit myself to get a better start. Carl sort of slowed down real quick before he went. When I jumped the gas, my car just spun like hell. Tire's so hard, hard to get hooked up on the restart.
Q. Biff, talk a little bit about Jack Roush. Last year he said he had gotten behind. Seems like you really have made gains in the Car of Tomorrow. What kind of driver does this car favor out on the racetrack?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I mean, your car's got to be right. Nobody can drive it unless it's right. A person that's got a lot of car control I think today ended up, you know, in front. You know, a person, like Junior said, when he had a loose car, he just took it for what he could, you know.
I think that we had -- I know we had a faster car than he did, and he drove a great race and ends up finishing in front of us because he used his head and he drove his car as fast as he could get his car to go, kept his track position.
So, you know, that's the kind of people it takes to run well in these racecars. But you can get them off, like the 48 today. Man, it's just a miserable today. You know, it just gets worse as it goes.
And Robbie Reiser really made the biggest difference probably at our company, you know, getting us turned around and pointed in the right direction. The end of last year, you know, before he moved into this general manager or competition director, the end of last year, he kind of headed up the testing and got that start. Before the second Loudon race is when that thing really came to life. So he's been working in that position kind of since then. And it's the reflection of his hard work and, you know, all the engineering department, everybody, fab shop, just starting to pay off.
Q. Greg, you've been pretty vocal the last two years about some of the frustrations that you've had when the cars weren't running the way that you wanted to. I know three races in is kind of early to tell still, but you obviously, your team, has picked it up considerably this year. How much optimism does that give you for the rest of the season and the chances of getting back in the Chase and making a title run?
GREG BIFFLE: It's a bunch of confidence. You know, I'm unhappy that I didn't win today, but I'm super excited about how fast the car was. The car was drivable all day from the green flag to the checkered flag.
You know, 80% of the laps were as fast or faster than the leader. It's just I kept screwing up and never got my track position where I needed it. So that is a bunch of confidence, man. I mean, I'm so excited about it. I can't wait till next week, you know, these next couple weeks, to get to some more racetracks and give it another shot.
You know, I felt like we could have won today. I just got -- I was near the front and got loose coming off of two. Took me a long time to get my track position back after I lost all that. But a lot of confidence.
Q. Dale or Greg, can we finally stop talking about the Car of Tomorrow being so unknown? This was supposed to be the first race after the first two where we'd really get a feel for it. We had 11 cautions, a record for the track today. Are you comfortable with the Car of Tomorrow now?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not really. It's just the third race man, this year. We ran it some last year, but all at short tracks. We need more time. I think you'll keep getting it better and better the more time you have with it. They need to explore softening the left side tire. Just a tiny bit of left side grip would help out a bunch and keep people from complaining so much.
But the car's coming around. I mean, it is what you make of it really. Take it and build it, do the best you can. But I struggled today really getting into the racetrack. I think that was not the Car of Tomorrow as much as it was how hard the tire is because they're real conservative on the tire.
Q. (No microphone.)
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I feel like it's perception. I got to give credit where credit's due. The Roush cars are really doing a great job right now getting the speed out of their cars.
But I feel pretty confident in our program. I think it's just perception. This is only the third race, man. I don't think you can get a good gauge by that. We got to go to Bristol and Atlanta, a couple real racetracks, and, you know, have some finishes there. We'll see how we do.
Q. Dale Jr., when you get in that position where you've got to try to jump somebody on a restart and you know his car is stronger than you, are there games you can play that you run through in your mind or were you just trying to by that point -- you said something about you'd almost given and accepted second.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I've been out of the game so long. Hell, man, I ain't had a whole lot of practice at that stuff (laughter). So, yeah, I looked like a tool out there. I was running in the back of Carl. Should have been waiting and getting a run. I was running into the back of him, spinning tires. 17 and 24 got the run. I should have been doing what they did.
That's what you got to do. It's a fine line I'm sure with NASCAR what they perceive as a jump or laying back too much. But I wasn't -- I needed to be a little more aggressive trying to get into the gray area with that. I was staying caught up, being a little too nice about it.
Q. (No microphone.)
GREG BIFFLE: There shouldn't be any gaps anywhere. There should be SAFER barriers all the way around the inside and the outside of these racetracks. You got to remember, if you look at the percentage of crash es that happen at the inside wall versus the outside wall, you know, they're pretty dang close, you know, so why not have them on the inside, SAFER barriers? You know, it's not that hard to do. Can't say we don't have the time or the money to do it because we're coming back here next year and going to race again.
So my opinion, they should be all the way around the tracks, inside and outside, and they got to quit this, you know, stepping the wall out. You know, they need to run the one wall way past the other wall, parallel, about a 12-foot alleyway where you can come out of so the walls are both flat. They always stop this wall and then make this wall come out. Well, it has a 90-degree -- you know, you can hit the thing head on from coming at a 30-degree angle off the track. You can run into the wall that's head on. They need to fix that.
Q. Did you see the contact between Jeff and Matt? If you did, what did you see?
GREG BIFFLE: I think we both saw the contact. It was hard for me because I had a big run, you know. So I had to try and slow down. I don't know why my car got loose, but when I started to come off the gas or started closing on them, my car started getting sideways before the 24 I think hit the 17. So I was, whew, trying not to be in that by a lot.
You know, it just got away from Jeff. You know, like Junior said, these cars are hard to drive. Tires are hard. You get in that position where it blocks the air off your racecar. He got up tight to the side of the 17. It's going to take the air off of your car, as well, being on the inside. He just lost it. It's uncharacteristic of Jeff, you know, to overdrive or make a mistake like that, but we all do, you know. And we hate it when it happens, but we're out there trying our hardest. You got to give and take still a little bit, you know.
Q. You guys are both in the top 12 right now, but there are a lot of big names like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, who aren't. A lot of people say Atlanta is an important point in the season, that if you're not in the top 12 or 15, you're going to be in a hole. Can you both talk about that? Are you pretty pleased going into Atlanta? Is Atlanta a big race to make sure you're safely in Chase territory?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, that's all really -- I'm going to run hard and try to win races, but I'm really watching that top 12 hard. I've waited and been lackadaisical, We'll get around to it, we'll put some runs together to get in there. I'm not going to do that this year. Concentrate on every lap.
GREG BIFFLE: I mean, same thing. You know, you're so nervous the whole entire weekend, getting in the car and everything, you know, about finishing the race. We finished 14th at California, and I was totally mad about it. But, you know, I knew that just those 14th-place runs will get us in.
I'm totally thinking about it, watching it. I was just frustrated at California because the night before, you know, felt like we had a car that we could gain a lot more points and kind of gave it up.
But, yeah, I mean, I'm thinking every race about it. I don't know about Atlanta or where the thing is. But I'm with him, I'm going to get the most points I can.
Q. Dale, were restarts a problem for you all day, more than just the ones in the closing laps?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, they weren't. I don't know whether the track cooled down quite a bit or I wasn't doing enough myself to keep my tires ready for those restarts. But I felt like I was. But it was the last three or four that we had the problem. I had a couple great ones the middle of the race. We were running near Matt for the lead, charged him real hard there, got on the outside of him going into one but couldn't hold it up there.
The car was able to get grip on restarts before. Seemed like the temperature went down a little bit, the track temp went down a little bit and it was a little tougher.
Q. If both of you could talk about this. Dale, like you said, the series is now going to a couple real racetracks, in your opinion. Atlanta is the fastest track out there. This car is going to be out there. How on edge is it going to be for you guys to try to get and understanding of what this car can do? Also the fact that everybody goes back to Bristol, which is where this car debuted last year.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, we tested a lot at Atlanta and it feels as good as it can for the fact that it's a COT. It feels -- you know, the tire is pretty good for that track. They've done a great job. We have pretty good grip there.
Bristol, you know, they redid the track, and everybody is still trying to pull some tricks there. We'll have to see how we end up when we get there. But I'm enjoying it. Pretty crucial, both them races, I think, to really set you up for the summer run.
Q. Junior, you used the word "frustrated" a couple times. You seem a little subdued. You just finished second. I would think that would be a big boost for you. When Tony kept you out on the racetrack about halfway or so, was that the right call?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I mean, I back his play pretty much every time. We tell each other behind closed doors who's right or wrong. But I back his play pretty much all the time out there when we got the whole world listening to us.
I don't know, I'm happy. I'm sorry I'm not happier (laughter). Yeah, the damn red flag, that was -- anxiety just kills you sitting there and sitting there and sitting there. You don't see what's going on with how they're cleaning the track. You don't know how long it's going to take. Yeah, I mean, anxiety just kills you, kills you. You've been running all day, and to have to be parked for 20 minutes, it's all you can stand. It's all you can take.
I wish all you knew what that felt like. I'm sure you do, and I just don't know how to compare it to anything that each of us has done. But it's tough, man. And you hate it. You know, I would have been glad if we had just run second under green flag, no crash. We were in good shape. I was running good times. Red flags are no fun. I hate 'em. They're part of the sport. You got to man up when it comes time.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thank you.
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