NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Party in the Poconos 400
Topics: Party in the Poconos 400
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
June 9, 2013
LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our third‑place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No.88 National Guard Chevrolet, fighting for the win there at the end on that last restart. Take us through what happened there, Dale.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: We knew we had a good car. The last restarts were kind of tough. Being on the inside on the front row, really ain't the catbird seat. The guys behind you can get good runs on you and put you three wide, and I was just really more in defense mode there. If I had a shot at Jimmie, by the time we got to 1, that was a bonus. They could get around outside pretty good, Greg got in there and got around us. The outside was pretty nice in 1 and 2 on restarts.
We had a great car, National Guard Chevrolet was really fast all weekend, and Jimmie beat us bad through Turn 3. If he was stronger, that's where I thought he was stronger than the field. We actually gained a little bit back through 1 and 2, but he was just flying through Turn 3 and down the front straightaway, and if you're going to be good here, that's where you've got to be good.
We'll go back and try to work on our stuff, try to get a little bit better and come back in a month or so and see what we can do.
But pretty happy with the way we ran, happy for Chase Elliott yesterday getting the win. That was exciting for him. I know he's got a great future with HMS and just looking forward to next week going to the Michigan track. We run pretty good there, so hoping to have a good summer.
THE MODERATOR: Also joining us is our second‑place finisher, the driver of the No.16 3M Ford, Greg Biffle. Talk about your run out there today.
GREG BIFFLE: It was definitely a struggle for us. We had two pit stops that weren't the greatest. We hung a lug nut, and we were struggling for track position all day, and like Junior said, Turn 3 and 4, or 3, whatever you want to call it, that was our worst corner. We were really, really good in 1 and 2 and really good in the Tunnel. That's been many, many years since I've been that good across the Tunnel.
But I was terrible in 3 and 4, so anything I would gain in those two corners I'd lose back all the way down the front, and then I couldn't get beside him to pass him in 1 and 2. I could kind of maintain my own, but like Junior said, 48 was super fast. I felt like I was as good as the 48, close to him, in 1 and 2 or 1 and the Tunnel, but 3 and 4 he was really just driving away from everybody. He's got something figured out over there.
It was a good day for us.
Q. Greg, you said in one of your interviews that you guys felt like you came back but you're not quite there, you're still a few weeks away from where you want to be as far as performance goes.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, we had some good restarts, and we were lucky with the lane choices and my car ran pretty good on restarts. But the 88 was faster than we were, clearly, 78 was faster than us. Most of the top 5 cars were probably a little faster than we were on sheer speed. But it's track position, you've got to pass a guy. We've still got a little bit of work to do. We're not quite there yet; no reason to‑‑ clearly we're not celebrating that we finished second today quite yet on our cars figured out, but definitely this is a step in the right direction. We certainly ran better here than we have all season, and certainly that's a positive for us going into next week, hopefully continue to build on that.
Q. First off, did you feel the bump from Kenseth on pit road and did that do anything to you, and how big a deal is just having a good run considering you've been not running there the last few weeks?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: You know, I didn't‑‑ he was a little hot getting onto pit road, which is easy to do. Most of us have got a brake lever in the car and put it forward coming in on to pit road to get in the box and all that stuff, because it will wheel hop pretty bad. So it was just a mistake there he made. But I don't think it bothered our car any. But it is good for us to get a good run. We were counting on sort of rebounding. We haven't had a good last couple of months, cars haven't been that fast, had some issues here and there. But it's good to get a good solid full race in and finish where I felt like the car was capable of running, and we got a couple other tracks coming up. Hopefully we can do this throughout the summer and get ourselves in the Chase pretty comfortably. But I feel the same way as Greg, we got a little work to do to get to where some of the other guys are. But we're pretty happy about today.
Q. Dale, you kind of just answered this, but last year you led a lot of laps here and then you went and won Michigan. Similar situation this year? Does it feel reminiscent of that, and also what went right today that hasn't gone so well in the races this year?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, the balance of the car and just the car had speed. Dover we just didn't have speed, couldn't really take advantage of any opportunities that were given to us during the race. We just didn't have the car to do it. But we had good speed. We had‑‑ we didn't have the winner of the race covered but we had everybody from fifth on back covered. So when your car can run that well you want to finish where it should finish.
And I think the repaves, we ran well here last year, we've got a good package going to Pocono and going to Michigan‑‑ hopefully going to Michigan we've got a good package, when we get there we'll see. But so far it's been real similar to last year. We were strong here last year.
Q. Dale, about the repave, was it different than last August, obviously with the rain, or last June, and also what do you expect from Michigan again with another year gone by since the repave, but also talk a little bit about Chevy dominance for this year and what Ford needs to do, what you both think about that.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I'm happy. I worried about going to the Gen‑6 car and all the cars kind of being different, everybody having a little bit different package on the front end as far as the nose and so forth, but I was worried about having a disadvantage, but it seems pretty good for the Chevys. I feel like the Chevys are doing pretty good. A couple teams got a little more engine, but that's more organization oriented than I think manufacturer oriented.
I felt like every‑‑ it really comes down to who's got the best handling car to be honest with you, and Jimmie had the best handling car by far today.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I mean, it's frustrating as a driver to not have the‑‑ maybe the equipment or the downforce or whatever that the other guys do, but I don't work on them, I don't build them, all I do is drive them, and I wish our cars were as good as those guys' cars right now. But we keep working on them every week and make them better. We're not going to give up.
Q. Dale, Jimmie obviously faced a little bit of adversity last week, dominant car, had the problem on the restart. What does it seem about him and the team that when they have faced adversity like that that they seem to bounce back the following week?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, they had good cars two weeks in a row. They won one race and didn't win the other one. They win championships. They win a lot of races. He's going to have his opportunities all year long. Fortunate enough for me I get to be in the same shop as those guys. I get to lean on them and I get to know exactly what's happening under the hood, and I can learn and use that to my advantage.
When it's good for Jimmie, it's equally as good for us in an indirect way, and hopefully we can see what they did and come back to Pocono and try to improve on what we did today. But he's just‑‑ he's one of the best drivers the sport has ever seen, and Chad Knaus is probably one of the smartest crew chiefs the sport has ever seen, very clever guy, calls a good race, puts together a good race car, got good guys, knows how to put good people around him.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, I don't think it's particularly‑‑ I mean, I don't know if you're saying it's him or not, but clearly they've got the best cars right now in the garage, and so it wouldn't have mattered last week when he got black flagged on the restart or not, or won it, they're going to come here and be fast and they're going to show up next week in Michigan and be fast. And when you're on a roll, you're on a roll, and when you've got good stuff‑‑ just because he jumped‑‑ whatever happened last week, that's not going to affect what they do this week.
Q. For both you guys, you both ran here under the old track and you had the new pave last year. What's your feeling now about the new track?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I really like it. I think it actually widened out quite a bit from last year to this year. Other tracks that have been repaved haven't sort of advanced the aging process that quickly, so I think that this place is sitting in the catbird seat. 1 and 2 had plenty of room, we went through there on restarts and you saw the top and the bottom work well for several guys. We never‑‑ we had a little bit of a weep in the rain in Turn 3, they might want to take a look at that before we come back, but we had a lot of rain, so going to be hard to not have things like that crop up.
But the surface, man, they did an awesome job, and I think it's really performing well. It's just going to get better and better and better.
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, they did probably one of the best jobs with what they had prior to it. The thing had a three‑foot jump getting into the Tunnel Turn or right in the middle of the Tunnel, and this place was real bumpy and a lot of elevation changes, and they've done a tremendous job. It's really smooth, it's really fast, pretty fun to race on. I mean, I think the only thing they could have done to make it any better is make 3 and 4 a little bit of progressive banking down there, if they would have added just a little side hit of banking to it so it wasn't single lane down there, that would be the only thing I think they could have done to this place to make it any better.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Maybe in about four years they could put the paving strip back up top and we can run through there side by side.
The only other thing I would change, I say this in all seriousness, is the curb in the Tunnel. I would make that similar to what Indy has or something different. We can't get near that thing or it'll just destroy the splitter and I don't know how the IndyCars are going to enjoy that. So that's the only imperfection I particularly don't enjoy, but the rest of the track, it's beautiful. This area is awesome, love coming here, love racing here.
Q. How much more interesting or enjoyable are these races now that they're only 400 miles compared to 500?
GREG BIFFLE: I think they're way better personally. You know, it keeps everybody's attention. It feels like‑‑ still feels like a long race inside the car. I mean, it did not feel like a short race today, I'll tell you that. I think it's a much better race to me all around.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I think from the grandstands to the television, I don't know that you can tell the difference between the change, so I think that's a good thing. I think less is more, and in a lot of aspects in this sport, I'm sure there's some drivers that would like to have a few more laps, but it's 400 miles.
THE MODERATOR: Greg, Dale, congratulations on your run here at Pocono. Good luck next week at Michigan.
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