NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: TUMS QuikPak 500
Topics: TUMS QuikPak 500
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
October 19, 2008
KERRY THARP: We are going to roll into our post race press conference and we are pleased to be joined in here by race runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. He drives the No. 88 Amp energy National Guard Chevrolet.
Had a great run out there today, Dale, and your thoughts about your performance chasing that 48 all day, but certainly you've got to be pleased with your strong run.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I have to hands it to Chad, and the whole team, Jimmie, he did it a great job today. Really he had such a good race car. He was able to cut, roll the center (inaudible, video static) tried to put the gas and get the gas to full throttle. It was pretty difficult for me at the end, and I feel like I was going to just try to do what I could with Jimmie, but he was too strong, just trying to protect our position on the last lap.
Pretty tough, pretty proud of my team. We had a long day and it was a tough day, run real hard and this place, you have to run so hard here every lap, and to get what you want, to get the finish you want, you can't really take any time off or pace yourself any. I'm proud of my team. We did a good job on pit road and had some good pit stops that helped us stay up front, and I had some good adjustments from Tony Jr., too. We started the race car really tight, and we had it running up there real good at the end. I'm just proud of my team.
Q. You've watched Jimmie's team from afar over the last few years and now seeing it up close what they are doing. How good is what they are doing in the Chase?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Oh, man, it's pretty obvious I think to everyone that they are such a great race team. Reminds me a lot of -- it's very, very similar to the three serious -- I don't know, there's a lot of great teams that were huge into sport, obviously Daddy had a great run and was dominant. He run a lot of races on just brute instinct and determination. But they only really dominated the sport in '87 and maybe a little bit in '86. All of the other things they did in sport were just by brute determination.
By Jimmie and those guy ares are slick and they are faster week and they win races by being the best car. I look at the history of the sport, and I think about Richard Petty and David Pearson and the Wood brothers and Yarborough, and later on Darryl and Junior, and I put them right up there with them teams there, and there's maybe only a good handful or half a dozen teams that are in that group and I feel like they are really achieving that. To do it, Dad and Jeff and several other great competitors, Rusty and all those guys were great race car drivers and had awesome careers.
But to pack it in three years and just dominate like that, there's only a good half a dozen teams that's ever been good like that and been that strong consistently year after year after year.
Q. On the long run you seemed to be able to reel Jimmie back in a little bit. Do you think if that last 30-some laps had gone green the whole way you might have a chance to get to him?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I felt like I had a better car handling, a better set of tires, my car was a little free, it had been free the first 20, 30 laps of the run. So I was struggling with that a little bit.
We were, I felt like, the best car at lap 100 on tires, but you're never going to get that here hardly. You might get it once or twice in the middle of the race like we did today but you won't get a hundred. NASCAR is not going to let that thing go green to the end. We had a race to green to the end, I can't remember how long, but you're going to get a caution near the end, bunch the field up and get the fans back into it and give everybody at home a good race to watch.
You know that going and you try to set your car up for that and be ready to be good when you need. It was real tight, the air pressure was real low on the left side and I was real tight for five or ten laps and the car would start pinning the tires up by the curb, and by lap 50 just turned into a great race car and we just get better and better as guys were falling off really bad. I would have liked to have had that opportunity and I think I could have give Jimmie a good run for his money, but I knew for a fact that that wasn't going to be the outcome.
Q. Dale, you talked about your perspective on where Jimmie in history, a lot of people say second can be the first loser but is it almost a win, anyway, for you, especially at a track like this?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I did the best I could today and got a great result out of. It I would have liked to won the race. I felt like we got it going at about lap 300 and I really started Targeting trying to win the race, and consistently considering and thinking that every lap we had been just -- the first half before the race you're just tuning on the car and concentrating on how to make the car roll to the center, power down and do all of these things. And we got the car better and better and better, and I was just really determined on trying to win and whatever it took to win. And we ran hard and got guys up on the racetrack and tried to take positions with force and whatever.
But I just couldn't, I never had an opportunity. I could catch Jimmie and those guys in traffic and maybe make a move at that point or do something there, but running in a straight line, their car was so dominant, man, I just didn't have an opportunity with the kind of -- with the way our car was handling, there was nobody was going to be able to get to him and even try to get by him. His car was just so good.
But it does feel good, it does feel great finishing like this. We have had such bad luck the last six weeks and tore up so many race cars. I'm proud of myself all year long of not wrecking cars and keeping all my cars in one piece. I think we went through about six in the last month or something like that; it's been terrible. But this is good for my team.
Q. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but seems like to me that you were in a hell of a fix at the end because if you have a car that takes awhile to come in, you can't afford a caution flag because you want a long run, but by not having a caution flag you're so far behind that it doesn't do as much good because of the time it will take you to track him down. I know that seems kind of simple, but it puts you in a tough spot where you're trying of -- damned if you do either way?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not really. With 60 to go, with 60 or 50 to go before the caution came out, we were catching the tail end of the field, and that was going to be really what I needed to put some moves on Jimmie was see him get in traffic and struggle. Or we were in the tail end of the field, I can't remember.
But I feel like that my best chance was for the race to go green, and my best -- my worst chance was how it turned out.
Q. Obviously you had Carl running close at the end. How tough was it to hold him off down the stretch?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, Carl is a real hard racer and you know, we got to running there earlier in the race and I took care of him a little bit.
I don't mind a guy getting into me a little bit. I just don't want to get spun out or run up into the marbles, you know. When it's ten to go, and a guy gets underneath you, you have to expect to get run up a racetrack a little bit and the guy is going to use up some of the racetrack a little bit. But I just don't like get putting in the marbles, and that's all I was really worried about at the end of the race here.
We run together about a hundred to go and took care of each other a little bit there and I guess, you know, he had that in the back of his mind there at the end of the race. I don't know, he can answer that.
But it was fun. I was trying to take my position. Me and Carl had about equal cars there at the end and I was having trouble getting a straight run out and getting the power down and having to stop at the end of the corner, and he had some opportunities to get into me a little bit if he wanted to.
Q. You were talking about beating and banging a little bit. Can you just talk a little bit about how balanced that with patience today you appeared to be pretty patient at times.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was sitting there watching Tony Stewart, and he would run -- Tony is kind of funny to watch.
We were sitting there running and he's running real hard and his car starts pinning up on the conner and he just kind of drops back and punts. What he does is he'll just pull over and get behind you and cruise and try to wait on his car.
I'm sitting there thinking, you know what, Tony is always near the front of this thing near the end, and I'm always the one burning my brakes off and never having nothing to stop my car from going into the corner at the end of the race and rear-hopping the tires because the front brakes is burned off at the end of the race.
So I just started taking care of my car. I was doing the same thing at Charlotte. I was like, man, I never finish this race, never got top fives here and always lead or run or mess something up.
So today there was a lot of times we were sitting there running fourth and fifth and I was just sitting there chilling, keeping my two-car length distance between me and the guy in front of me and just laying off the brakes and rolling down in the corner and trying to save a whole lot of race car and see what happened there at the end is and see if it pays off and I never had good brakes at the end of these races because I run so hard these first 400 laps; so I was trying to take care of it.
Q. Kind of mean this in a humorous fashion, but we were talking the other day how you would like to see some other tracks into the Chase; if Jimmie keeps winning and doing so well, do you want to change it up to make sure he doesn't have the same luck the next two or three years going on?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think, you know, I'm fortunate enough to be in the shape shop as Jimmie and see how they work and what they do and hopefully a lot of that stuff is going to rub off on us. We look at their setups and our setups and we try to understand how their setup makes their car drive and what he likes and whatever, but I don't think I want to change it up too much.
It's good when you have a teammate running good, really good, because you like to lean on that. You know, Jimmie, I don't know, I would rather have him running really good, because I want to know what I need to put in my car every week, you know, or at least have a backup plan if we can't get it working, and having Jeff definitely provide that for us.
So I still have not really truly ran their setup here. I've always kind of -- we've still kind of huddled around our little thing we have been working on the last coupleful years because we run pretty good here but we may ease in that direction because they are having such good success and they are winning so many races.
KERRY THARP: We appreciate it very much, thank you and good luck in Atlanta.
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