NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Ford EcoBoost 400
Topics: Ford EcoBoost 400
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
November 17, 2013
KERRY THARP: Joining us now is our second‑ and third‑place finishers today. Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Matt, congratulations on an outstanding season. Second in points. You led the series this year in number of wins. Just a tremendous performance by you.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., a top‑five finish in the series points for you.
Let's hear first from Dale. You looked like you were going to get in there and get that win, competed very hard today. Really looked like the 88 team was on top of its game.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, we've actually been really good every week since the Chase started. I can't remember, but I think we were pretty good at Chicago, blew a motor.
We came here and tested. Really liked how that worked out. Worked on the car real hard Saturday. Worked on it real smart. Felt like we had a car that was going to come to us, and it surely did. We weren't that great at the start of the race, but as the race wore on, the thing really come to life.
Really happy to run as well as we have this season. This has been one of the best years I've had, certainly the best year I've had working with Hendrick. Just want to give my team a lot of credit. Steve Letarte, my engineers, did just an amazing job providing these good cars every week.
Hoping next year we continue that trend and that trajectory and get a shot at winning a championship. I think we can do it.
KERRY THARP: Matt, certainly a strong performance today by you throughout the season, as I mentioned. I know it's hard to look back quickly, but talk about your 2013 season.
MATT KENSETH: Obviously it's been a great year, best year I've ever had.
Had a lot of fun racing over at Joe Gibbs Racing. I'm really happy for Denny getting that win. Think that will help us all with some momentum over the off‑season. Really enjoyed our year.
Had a great weekend, great night. Had a lot of fun racing Dale, Jr. Like he said, wish it was for a win, but that was a lot of fun. It's always fun to race somebody that you like and that you can trust, you race hard with back and forth, know what to expect.
It was a really fun night. Obviously both of us sitting here wanted to come up with a win. If Jimmie would have got a flat or something that would have been okay there at the end, too.
On a serious note, it was a great night. Jimmie and that team are obviously unbelievable. Never seen anything like this in the sport and probably will never see anything like it again. It's amazing with as tight as the rules are, multi‑car teams, information sharing, and all that stuff. It's amazing they can figure out how to do that year after year.
KERRY THARP: We'll start with questions.
Q. Now that the season is over, is it a relief that you can get some time off or is it bittersweet because both of you were having great seasons? Sometimes you lose the momentum in the off‑season.
MATT KENSETH: For me, when you're running good, you kind of don't want the season to end in a way. You want to keep going to the track. When you end the season on not as good a note, you come down here and struggle, you're ready for a month or two break.
I am looking forward to spending some time with my family this off‑season, catching up with some people I haven't seen for a while.
To me as I get older, the seasons go faster and faster honestly. It was more fun this season. More weeks than not, we were so competitive. In a way you don't want it to end. You sit around for a couple months, wonder what it's going to be like when you get to Daytona, Phoenix, Vegas, if you're going to have that competitive edge.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: The off‑season is so short, it's more sort of a formality. Ever since I started working with Steve and that whole team I hadn't wanted the years to end. We seem to get better as the season goes. You would just love to go to another race next week.
Q. Matt, you've said numerous times this is the best season you've ever had. One of the seasons before was a championship season. Why is this year better than the championship season? You've been so upbeat about it. Do you think you're going to have a 'we let it slip away' moment?
MATT KENSETH: No, I won't have one of those moments. In the past I probably did that a lot, probably a little too much. Not really this time. I really will walk away from this year feeling like we all gave it everything there was to give.
I think there's no way you're going to race for nine months, not make mistakes, not do something wrong, whatever. I mean, that's just the nature of the beast. You'll have that stuff happen.
I think when you look at our season overall, when I talk about it being the best season of my career, we didn't come up with the championship, the championship is the ultimate goal, you always want that, but from a competitive standpoint it's been by far the best season of my career.
We lead the most laps, qualified the best, I think probably best average finish, most wins, all that stuff. From a competitive standpoint, it was our best year.
The final 10, I didn't get more points than Jimmie. We still ran good the final 10. We didn't have any huge disasters. We just didn't run good enough to beat him.
Q. Matt, when you and Jimmie had the contact on the restart, fell back, were you aware of where he was? Did you think that was your opening?
MATT KENSETH: No, I didn't even know we had contact on the restart. It was the weirdest thing. I still haven't even seen it. It was just like Atlanta. He was just falling backwards so fast. I don't know if he was spinning the tires that bad. Kyle was on me kind of pushing me. I was kind of seeing where he was going to go. I was going toward him, slowing up, then he all of a sudden snapped sideways. I got off the gas not to wreck. I got hit in the right rear, if it was Jimmie, I have no idea until you just told me. I didn't know where he was.
Q. Dale, after the last nine weeks, do you look back at Chicago and think, Oh, man, what if?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Probably wouldn't have made a big difference. We didn't win enough races in the regular season. We didn't win any. That was the difference. When we started the Chase, we were already in the hole a little bit to Matt. It's too competitive.
Just like the end of this race, reason why I couldn't get Matt is because he's running second. The guy in second, the guy in first, they're not going to be easy to pass.
We just got behind in the regular season not winning enough, not doing enough to get bonus points. Those guys did. Those points are so important. If you put a good 10 races together, add them bonus points on top of it, man, you're going to be hard to beat.
Q. Dale, you talked about how good your cars have been in the Chase. Seems like they improved over the past 10 races. Can you put your finger on one thing that your team has found?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I've asked Steve over and over, asked my car chief, Jason, over and over, and asked everybody on the team at least once or twice what we're doing different. They said they're not doing anything different.
You know, I really don't know why. I have the same feeling, like our cars are way faster. We have been more competitive I think not as a company, I just think the 88 team has really stepped it up.
But each year, like I said, we've gotten better. As a year, we've gotten better. When we first started working together, it's easy to forget about all this, but when me and Steve started working together, we were working our guts out to finish in the top 10. Each year it's kind of gotten easier to run a little better.
Q. Matt, you just said it was the best season of your career, you gave everything you had. Ultimately it's still not enough to beat Jimmie Johnson. What is the take away from that? Can you look at that and not get frustrated? Or are there areas you can improve and beat those guys? Are they the best team ever?
MATT KENSETH: I mean, you never concede it to them until it's done. They just seem to be able to raise the bar. I haven't looked at the numbers, I haven't read anything the last six weeks, haven't watched anything, I don't really know.
I don't know if the points total is more than ever. I don't know how close it is. I would think the 10 races we put together would have won a championship in some years past. They just seem to be able to raise the bar. If they don't have any kind of problem, they're capable of winning every week. If they don't win, they're going to run in the top 5. Seems like you have to run in the top 5 every single week.
I thought we put together a really good 10 weeks. You can look back, Talladega was a big dent in the points. Talladega is Talladega, you can't do anything by yourself. We had a bad finish last year. Those two chunks of points were probably the difference.
KERRY THARP: Matt, Dale, congratulations on a super season. We've enjoyed watching you guys.
MATT KENSETH: We appreciate you, Kerry, at that podium every week. Thank you.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Thank you.
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