NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Carfax 400
Topics: Carfax 400
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
August 16, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by today's third-place finisher, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Dale, tell us about your run.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, we were real happy with the car all weekend. I felt pretty confident going into the race. When we started the race, the car was really, really loose. We worked on it. I got it pretty decent in the middle part of the race, but we didn't have overall speed like we needed. We decided to make a change about two or three runs left. The car really was good after that.
We had tires on everybody pretty much in front of us on the end, that last restart. Just picked our way up through there.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by today's second-place finisher, Jeff Gordon. Jeff, tell us about your run.
JEFF GORDON: It was a really good run. I mean, we started 21st. Just slowly but surely worked our way up to the front. We got in the top five there that one time. We took two tires. That got us a little bit behind. We were playing a little bit of catch-up from that point on. We had a good car. We didn't have the best car. But like you saw today, the best car doesn't always win. We did everything we could to get the best finish we could.
I really felt confident we were going to make it, even though Steve told me we were four short when we left pit road that last pit stop. I shut the engine off so much. I felt like I got us six laps. At least with the caution, I felt like I did. Felt pretty confident I didn't have to conserve a whole lot. Junior was pressuring me a lot at the end. I was waiting, to see if the 43 and 83 ran out. One did, one didn't.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined today by's highest finishing Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, Joey Logano. Joey, tell us about your run.
JOEY LOGANO: We had a really good racecar all day, I thought. We started off beginning of the race, able to move up into the top five. Was able to run there for a little bit. Then after the first pit stop, said (indiscernible) two tires, took four, we lost a lot of track position. I kept getting shuffled around on the restart.
We had a good car. There coming to the end, you know, a lot of guys pitted. We stayed out. That was a mistake. Ended up working out all right for us. We didn't have to save any fuel.
Overall it was a good day for us. Coming home seventh, compared to where we finished last time, I think we finished 25th the first race. Happy with what we gained on this one.
Q. Dale, if you had plenty of fuel and the guys in front of you didn't, why couldn't you make up more ground? Were they running pretty hard?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Why couldn't I make up more ground?
Q. If they had to conserve fuel, were they running pretty hard at the end? Were you concerned with fuel?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was trying to catch them. I think I was there. We were the fastest car up until we got to within about 15 car lengths of Jeff. I got real tight. I'm sure by that time, they have to race for the win eventually. Somebody is going to start to try to chance it first. It looked like Vickers was the one that did that. He pushed the 48 much harder than probably Jimmie was wanting to go.
I think Jeff and me both were sitting there knowing we didn't have a real shot at catching him 'cause of the way the cars were all kind of equal. But we were running pretty hard.
I think Jeff was, I don't know, going hard the last 10 probably. So, you know, once I caught Jeff, got within 15 car lengths of him, that was it, I couldn't go any harder. I was sliding the nose so bad through the center, off the corner, I wasn't full throttle like I had been most of the run.
Q. Jeff, very early in the race, lap 27 or 30, it seems you and Mark Martin were running identical speeds. What was your setup? How is the information sharing among your teammates?
JEFF GORDON: The information sharing is fantastic. Felt like this weekend we came really well-prepared with our notes from the last race and the run that we had and our teammates. I mean, we all have our different driving styles, likes and dislikes. You rarely ever start with the same setup.
But I would say that we were pretty close to the 5 and the 48. I felt like we ran about like them. We weren't able to maintain the track position that one time we got it, because we were on two tires instead of four. I felt like we were one of the best cars on fresh tires, then we'd really get tight. Those guys were maybe just a little bit freer than us and better than us in the long run. I felt like the three of us were really close.
There at the beginning I saw Junior get real loose. I don't know about where they were with their setup, but I know they had to make some big adjustments. I was pretty impressed that they were saying, Hey, the 88 is the car to beat, he's coming hard and fast. Obviously they made some good adjustments. I'd say we all had really good cars, and probably not too far off on the setups.
Q. Dale, you won a fuel race here a year ago. You were in one here a couple months ago. Are you surprised these guys were able to go 51 laps? Did you feel you were in the catbird seat?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: The way our luck has been, I wasn't sitting there thinking I was in the catbird seat. I was thinking maybe I'll get on the podium.
I know every one of those guys are real good at saving fuel. And we've all gotten smarter I think in the last year and a half actually on some of the tricks to do, some of the things we can accomplish under caution to help ourselves.
You know, you can save a lot more fuel I think running that high line, running half throttle almost the entire lap and be able to run just about the same speed as the guy running hard on the bottom.
You know, I wasn't too surprised they were able to make it. I was more surprised we made it last year than they made it this year I think.
Q. Dale, what does this finish do for your confidence? Obviously your best finish since April.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't want to get too excited. You want to be up front every week like this. You want to be there the whole race. You don't want to just come up there through the last 50 laps and surprise everybody.
You know, we're getting better as a team. It's just really, really hard to be patient, be mindful and respectful of everybody, you know, just hold your tongue every once in a while.
But we're working really hard. Never worked so hard to run third. I've won races working a whole lot easier than this. But, you know, it's competitive with this car, and there's not really a real edge for anyone right now. You just got to work hard all the time. My team deserves a lot of credit. They worked hard all weekend, got a good car, made a lot of changes, we leaned on our teammates a lot in setup knowledge. We made some good changes in the race. Just some really smart stuff we had Lance and the guys doing all weekend.
Q. Joey, I think you lost a position at one point during the race doing a fake into pit road. Another guy got caught doing that. Did you learn something off of that?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, at that point, you know, me and Zippy were talking on the radio about what we were going to do. The plan was to stay out on that. Everyone started coming. I hit the button, said, What do you want to do? He said, Come in. I just went with what he said before. Stick to the plan. I went down with him because I thought about it, then I came back up. I didn't know that rule. Ended up losing a spot on that one. That wasn't a make-it or break-it moment of the race I think, as far as losing one spot there.
Q. Dale, you talked out on pit road about the homework or extra work you've been doing. How has that helped you? In the past there's been the knock against you, fair or unfair, you guys will be good early but don't finish off a race. Lance was saying today you weren't as good early, you finished it off strong today.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't know. I think one of the most important things for me is to stay calm. Sort of every race, you know, you sort of face some adversity. You'll make changes every pit stop. Some work and some don't. I'm my own worst enemy I guess in the middle part of a race when I see us not going the right direction and I know how difficult and how much of a challenge it is to keep track position and gain any track position on the racetrack. So I just get so frustrated.
And I think I've been working -- since I started working with Lance, I've been trying to work really hard to be the same person at the end of the race that I am at the start of the race mentally. That really helps them stay focused on their job and working on the car instead of having to control me and my problems. They can think about what they're looking at on them laptops, figuring this, that and the other, everything them engineers are telling them in their ear.
I think it just comes down to sticking with it, staying with the team, and trying to be part of a solution instead of a part of the problem.
Q. What was it like for you when you had to come in early because of the vibrations?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We had gotten really loose. I flipped off the right front blower. I got this real bad vibration after about 30 laps. I didn't know whether tore the inside of the tire up or whatever. But my car had been darting around the steering head something where it has a little dead spot in the steering box or something all day under speed. It was grinding and carrying on up front. Something was laying on something.
I just didn't know. I wanted to be on the safe side. With the new wave-around rule, if we were pitting 15 laps early, they had a caution quickly after that, we would have been able to get the wave-around. You're not ruining your day by coming down, being on the safe side. We didn't have anything wrong, at least not with the tire.
Q. Jeff, how is the back? Second now in Sprint Cup points with three races to go before the Chase.
JEFF GORDON: My back is fine. I would rather be third in points right now and had that win today. That's all that really matters at this point for us. We're having a great year. We're showing that we're strong, a great team.
I just would like to have a few more bonus points going into the Chase, a little bit more momentum. This certainly is going to help towards the momentum if we can go to Bristol next week and keep putting a strong finish out there and effort. That's going to mean as much to me as anything.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you. Congratulations.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|