NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: AAA 400
Topics: AAA 400
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
September 29, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our post‑race press conference. We welcome our second‑place finisher Dale Earnhardt, Jr., currently 10th in points.
Talk a little bit about the race out there starting from the pole, finishing second.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, we had an awesome car. Two weeks in a row we've had two fantastic racecars. We're proud of Steve and Ken, my engineer, all the guys for bringing such good cars to the racetrack. It certainly makes my job easier, gives us opportunities to win like this.
Trying to look on the bright side. A little disappointed we didn't pull off the win. Felt like we had the perfect strategy. Had maybe the best car, arguably the best car, today. With those four tires I thought we could get it done.
We left everybody in the mirror. We were clicking off some laps, but just not fast enough to get to Jimmie.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions for Dale.
Q. Can you talk about the two pit stops, the one where you blew past the commitment line, then the last one where you got caught up in traffic. Are you glad neither of those cost you?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah. If you really look at the race as a whole, they did cost us a little bit, at least the mistake I made missing pit road completely. We had the lead, gave up the lead. Jimmie had the lead and was able to take advantage of that clean air when it counted.
If I had not given up that track position, had a smart enough race to keep the lead when it counted right at the end, we might have won the race. It would have been hard to get by us, just like it was to get by Jimmie.
I think missing the commitment cone was a big factor in us not finishing one spot ahead of where we are. But the other pit stop wasn't that big a deal. I came on pit road about as hard as I could. The 14, Mark, was running maybe 5, 10 miles an hour slow in the first couple segments. I don't know that cost us a ton of time.
Q. Dale, do you have any sense for how long it would have taken for your tires to produce more of an advantage? Did you feel like you were starting to track him down?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, definitely. I knew for sure over the entire run, if we could run 80 laps, four tires are definitely going to be better than two. We were guessing around 35, 40 laps the difference would start to show.
I felt like as we got the traffic, Jimmie was starting to struggle a little bit in the last couple of laps. My car actually got better the longer I ran and drove better, did what I needed it to do in the corner as we ran. It wasn't quite clicking just yet. Our car was starting to come around.
I think the difference in the tires between our two cars was about to show. But the race is 400 laps. That's the way it is. They did a good job. Real proud of the company. We were going to have a helluva party if we could get to him.
Q. Dale, Jimmie said you drove a whale of a race. Second place, when you're going up against Kenseth, talk about hitting your head against the wall.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I think we won't do that. I feel like in the last couple of weeks, we've been able to really show what our team's capable of. We've been really quick on the sheet every day, fast in practice. The changes we're making, everything seems to be working right, going in the direction you want. I feel like when we get it right, we can compete and we can win.
We came really close today. I don't feel like today was a highlight for us. I think this is how it's supposed to be every week. I know that competition's difficult and tough, Jimmie being one of the best drivers the sport has ever seen. Running at one of his better racetracks, it was going to be a challenge. But I felt like we had enough car and tires for sure to beat him.
Q. Coming off the last restart, you were with Jimmie for a little bit, then seemed like you moved up on the high side, he got away from you. Would that not have mattered? Did you give up more time than you necessarily wanted to at that point?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was just trying some different lines, seeing what might work. I ran the high line, gave up about four car lengths to him. Realized I needed to be back on the bottom. Went back down there and focused again.
His car was good. I mean, I had to run perfect laps to maintain the pace that he had, just to not let the lead get any bigger, just hope that he'd start coming back to me there at the end. It was just a little bit too late.
Q. Dale, even though he's your teammate, does it still kind of suck to lose to Jimmie because he always wins everything?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'll be honest with you, it sucks to lose regardless of who wins (smiling). It's probably harder to run second than it is fifth or tenth. When you have a car like we had today, you don't get good cars every week, you like to capitalize.
It doesn't bother me that it was Jimmie. I know Jimmie is going to be good here. Plus he's my teammate. I want to see him do well. When he does well, it indirectly affects us and benefits us.
I wasn't hoping he was going to blow a tire or anything there at the end, I was just trying to catch him. If I could get to him, I thought I would be able to get by him. We just couldn't do it.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, thank you for your time this afternoon. Congratulations.
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