NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Wonderful Pistachios 400
Topics: Wonderful Pistachios 400
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
September 10, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Let's meet the first driver of the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field has joined us, and that's Carl Edwards. He drives the No. 99 AFLAC Ford for Roush-Fenway. Carl comes in as the fifth seed, 2003 points at three points based on the one win that he's got this year. Had a heck of a race here tonight, as well. Carl, talk about the race here tonight at Richmond and your thoughts now that this Chase field has been set.
CARL EDWARDS: Well, once I get over the frustration of not winning this thing I'm going to be pretty excited about how fast our team is. We really turned things around tonight. That's the best we've run on the short track in years, so that was huge. You know, that was a tough race not to win. I felt like we had the car to beat, and if we had another lap or two, we would have been all up -- all over Harvick there. It was a fun race. I did have a good time, and ready to go get this Chase on.
THE MODERATOR: Joining us up here right now, as well, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., drives the No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. And we've got Dale Earnhardt 10th in points, 2,000 is the number that he will start with.
And on the far right down there is Brad Keselowski who drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge. He's our No. 1 wild card driver, and he's seeded 11th also with 2,000 points.
Let's hear from Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Dale, you persevered, that car got beat around but you handled some things and you're in the Chase.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, thanks, man. We had a pretty good year. Tonight didn't start off too good. We got in a little bit of a crash there. The 33 spun out early, and I think everybody back there behind him was alerted of the accident except for one or two guys, and they come through there and drove a few of us into it. Bent up a bunch of stuff on my car. I could run good for about ten laps until the tires would go away, and then we had too much canvas and it was wearing out the right front tire. We got lucky, got the lucky dog a bunch, and ended up finishing 15th somehow. I felt like I was disappointed we didn't get to show how good a car we had because I thought we had a good one yesterday in practice, and it's all over with now. We'll just go see how we can do in the Chase.
THE MODERATOR: Brad Keselowski has joined us. He's our top wild card entry. He's got three wins on the year, and Brad, seeded 11th. You were knocking on the door trying to get in that top 10 early in the race and certainly had a car that looked like it was going to be really strong. Talk about getting in the Chase as a wild card.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, we would have much rather preferred to have capitalized on the wins and get in the top 10 obviously, but we gave it a good effort. It was going to take a lot to get it done, but certainly going to look back at the first part of the year and wish that we'd have been able to find those 20 some points or whatever it was we were off. But still have a lot to be proud of for the year that we've had. To win three races -- I think most people would tell you having won three races is a good year and making the Chase. Trying not to get too greedy about having the three wins and the bonus points. Just thankful for the year we've had and going to keep working, got some good momentum and a lot of things to be proud of this year. If we can find a little bit more speed I feel like we can be a serious contender in the championship buzz we're doing a good job executing, I feel like we're out finishing what we've got for speed, and that's what good teams do. I hope we can go back and find a little bit more speed.
Q. Dale, was there any point there early where you were just kind of sitting there thinking, man, my world is about to crumble if we're not careful?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, I wouldn't worried at all. I had seen race cars run good at short tracks before and I figured we had all night to fix it. I felt like if we were a good enough team, we'd get the job done. Brad had to run his ass off to win the race, to run in the top 5 to make it tough on us. He almost did that, but I felt good. I knew my team could fix the car good enough, and if everything felt the right way for us as far as them cautions and getting them lucky dogs, getting an opportunity to work on the car, we'd be fine.
Q. Dale, just talk about being back in the Chase. I know that this is big for you.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I'm proud to be in the Chase. I feel like I'm a good enough driver to be in the Chase, my team is good enough to be there. As a group I think we're good enough to be in the top 10, and I can look back over the season and just easily think of several instances where we cost ourselves 10 or 15 points and made this situation difficult this weekend. Had we been more conscious and smarter at certain times we wouldn't have had to even worry about it this weekend. But we're a good team, and I'm proud to carry my sponsors and HMS in the Chase and represent them in the Chase, and hopefully we're going to work real hard, hopefully we do a good job.
Q. You talked yesterday about having more bullets in the gun when the Chase starts. What do you think you have for them over the final ten races?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We've got to run a different setup than what we ran tonight in the last six weeks frankly. But we had a pretty good run at it going the first 15 races, and for whatever reason we sort of fell off and forgot some things or over-engineered something. But we need to look hard at what we're doing, what we've been doing, sort of a pattern, find something within what we're trying to maybe harness or hampering our ability to drive the cars as well as I want to drive them.
But Steve has told me he's been kind of conservative, but we've been conservative on the motor and a couple other things the last several weeks to make sure we don't have any problems like engine failure, and there's some other things on the engineer's side. We'll just see. I don't think that any of that stuff is really going to make us faster, but we'll go in there with a good attitude.
Q. Brad, in the middle of the race you took off and then you kind of fell off. There was something on TV, but I didn't hear it. How does this look for a championship, because you come in with a wild card but only one less win. Of course you don't get the bonus points but you had three wins and only two other drivers have beat you in wins this year. How is your outlook for the Chase?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, sure. Well, I felt really good. I felt like superman when we came in and put new tires on and there was a couple other guys that came in with us, and we were able to drive up to the pack even much faster than anticipate I anticipated. We didn't have anything for Carl. He was still driving away with older tires. We've still got a lot of work to do, and kind of made it look good. I'm sure there was some people that really got interested in that. But we've still got to work on it, still got to find speed because we didn't have it when we were on equal footing. I still like our outlook.
This was one of the tracks that we struggled on in the spring, so we were able to come back and run a lot better, which was encouraging, but we still have a ways to go. We've got what I feel like are some good races for us coming up in the Chase. Obviously going back to Kansas which we had run good at even before we won, and I think of tracks like Martinsville, I think we were really good there, as well. I think we're going to come back to those races and be really strong.
I think there's not really a bad track coming up for us in the Chase and I feel like we're really on a high note and I feel like we've got as good as shot as anyone else. I really believe that.
Q. Dale, do you feel that making the Chase kind of validates the extension you signed, and could you imagine what life would be like if you didn't make the Chase after being in the top 10 virtually all year?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I mean, I'd have a lot less to do over the next ten weeks. That's about all, I guess. I'm in the Chase, and I've got an opportunity to run for the championship. I've got an opportunity to compete and improve my points position and improve the overall payout. I've still got a race to run. When you're not in the Chase, it's a consolation to finish 13th or whatever your opportunity is, the best you can do, but that's not all that exciting.
You basically just kind of hold it together the last ten races and don't do anything stupid and settle some scores. But we'll just -- I think it does validate our team. I think it says a lot about our team, and I've always felt like this team was good enough to be in the top 10, and I feel like tonight -- we always gave it away. We got outrun all year long several different times, but we always gave it away a few times, too. I'm pretty proud of what we've been able to do all year.
Q. Carl, looking ahead to the Chase, what do you see as the greatest challenge for you and your team? Brad, first time in the Chase. How do you look at it and how do you study or what kind of perspective do you take looking forward?
CARL EDWARDS: I'm pretty excited about all the races we're going to after tonight. This is the best we've run on a short track in a long time, so the race I'm usually worried about the most would be Martinsville, and I'm pretty excited. I didn't expect us to run as well as we did tonight, so I think our team there for a little while, we were kind of slowing down, and then last week we ran really well at Atlanta and this week we felt like a dominant car all night, a really fast car. So I'm excited.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I feel like I'm viewing it like a one-year-old that got his first box of crayons. Happy and amazed to have them. And it's great. Everything is fresh, new, and a lot of positive momentum. No matter what happens in the Chase, it's still an honor to be in it, and that doesn't mean I'm making excuses if we don't run well, by no means. But I'm just going to thoroughly enjoy it and approach it with a fairly open mind and try not to box myself into saying we've got to do this or got to do that. I'm going to run hard each and every week, do the best I can, and it'll either come together or it won't.
Q. Carl, tell me why you didn't pit and why that didn't in the end cost you the race.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I was wondering the same thing.
CARL EDWARDS: Screw you, Brad. I thought Brad was going to be a big threat for the championship. I didn't know that until now.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Fair enough.
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know why we didn't pit. I think Bob thought that there was going to be another caution. We were kind of getting caution after caution, and we just thought more guys would stay out. We were still running third when the next caution came out, and we still should have had -- I should have been able to win that race. I just didn't get a good enough restart, didn't get by Jeff to have a lap or two once I got to Kevin. We learned a lesson. It cost us three points, but once I get over -- like I said, once I get over the frustration of not winning it, I'll be happy about how we ran.
Q. Carl, you were so strong during the regular season. Do you guys feel you're back where you need to be to go out and finally win this thing?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, big time. These guys know how it feels. When you're running really well, everything is easy, and when you're struggling a little bit, you get nervous like when are we going to get back on track. I feel like after tonight's ran, the way we ran, that's a shot in the arm for me. I feel like we can run with the guys who have been running like Brad's been running the last few weeks. It's just one race but I think everyone would agree Richmond is a race that tests a lot of parts of your team. You have to have a good car. We made one strategy tonight but we're a team and we're in this together and if that's the worst mistake we make in the Chase, we're going to be okay.
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