NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Camping World RV Sales 500
Topics: Camping World RV Sales 500
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
October 20, 2013
KERRY THARP: Let's roll right into our post‑race for the 45th Annual Camping World RV Sales 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, race No.6 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Our race runner‑up is Dale Earnhardt Jr. He drove the No.88 Mountain Dew XBox 1 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Dale, certainly you were up front just about all day long, led some laps, and just talk about your run out there today here at Talladega.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I was wondering if we might have led the most, but if we didn't we were up there close.
We had such a good car. You know, since I've been working with Steve, we just haven't really had a good combination here, and maybe I've torn up some really good cars and just never got to see how good they were in races in the past. I knew in practice the car was strong, and just wondered if everybody was showing everything they had. Once you get the whole field out there it's a little bit different, but our car was a rocket and we were able to be aggressive, and I just tried to lead every lap of the race.
I felt like what I've seen be successful with this package and this car this year, if you've up front all the time, you tend to be there at the end when it counts, and we were. We got shuffled out there on that last run when we come out of the pits. I thought we pitted a little bit early, gave up a lot of time. My crew chief Steve didn't really agree with that, but I just felt like if we could stay out on the racetrack we had a better shot at coming out in front of them guys. We ended up coming out behind a bunch of people and worked our way up toward the front there on the outside.
It's all kind of a blur as to how we ended up in second, but I had no reason to make a move before the last lap being in second place. I was in perfect position to be patient and wait as long as I wanted to. So that's why we didn't go any sooner than that. I just can't anticipate a caution coming out every single time we run at Talladega race on the last lap, so I just assumed it would go to checkered and was planning my move on the back straightaway.
We sort of let the 1 car get out there a little bit going down the front straightaway into Turn 1 and we mashed the gas in the middle of the corner and got a run with the 14, and I was moving around just a little bit to see where the 1 thought I might be going, because I gotta sort of fake him out, and I noticed the run stopped, and I looked in the mirror and guys were out of control.
We didn't get an opportunity to see what would have materialized. It wasn't the best run in the world. It wasn't what I dreamed it would be, all those last few laps. But it was a good enough run I think to get up to his quarterpanel and get beside him, and then we would have found out who our friends were at that point.
But really happy with the way the car ran and it was good to run up front, good to lead. We've really struggled this season with being competitive, and to drive up through there and do that like we did today, and it felt great.
Q. So many different things can happen here, but we have had situations recently where a lot of the races that have ended with a situation where you at least have to think about, well, maybe there might be a caution that's going to end like that.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Can you remember the last race here that didn't?
Q. Exactly. How much does it go into your thinking maybe I might need to be out front just in case we get‑‑
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I wished I was out front, I really did, but I knew that I had everything to lose and really one spot to gain by going early, and if I waited until the last lap I could possibly defend off a failed run and get a relatively decent finish.
I guess pulling out early and that not working and finishing 25th was worse than trying to take the chance. Waiting and being patient I thought would pay off. Every race we have here we all wreck on the last lap, and it's fortunate that that wreck wasn't any worse than what we typically see here. But for some reason it was a lot calmer the last few laps. Everybody was pretty good about staying in line.
I would have been a little more antsy if I would have been back there in 5th or 10th, but they weren't jumping out, and had they jumped out and moved with five to go, nine to go, whatever, that would have changed everyone's strategy, and we might have went sooner, been forced to go sooner than we did. But nobody moved, so I was like, hey, I'm just going to wait until the end. I don't have to try until the very end. I've got one guy to pass, and all I've got to do is make one run happen, and maybe it'll work.
KERRY THARP: Let's hear from our third‑place finisher, and that's Paul Menard. He drives the No.27 Menard's Duracell Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Paul, maybe just talk about what you saw from your vantage point.
PAUL MENARD: Well, first off, we started deep in the field, I think 34th or 35th, and knew that we had a real good car. We just didn't do much drafting on Friday. Knew we had a good car, knew it was pretty stable but wasn't totally sure how it was going to handle in a big pack.
At the start of the race we took off and tried to learn more than anything, and car drove really good, was fast, drove to the front, kind of hung out in the top 10 all day long and just could never get to the first couple rows to lead a lap.
Had a good Duracell Menard's Chevy all day long. We could make the middle groove work to gain spots and then get to the outside and then ultimately the outside lane kind of won out over the long run. That's kind of where everybody shuffled out to. Kind of riding around the last 10, 15 laps waiting for somebody to make a move. I didn't want to be the first guy to do it and get shuffled back to 30th. I was kind of waiting for Dale to make something happen.
Q. Dale, you said on TV just a minute ago that you were talking about your plan was you were figuring the 14 was going to go with you and you said whoever else wanted to come along. It appears the 17 was what kind of glitched the situation back there. Did you see him back there? Did you know he was going to be‑‑
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: A wild card?
Q. Yeah, part of the mix?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I knew everybody was going to be a part of the finish somehow. I'm pretty sure Jamie wasn't just going to let me go by. He was going to side draft and it was going to‑‑ we were going to play hell trying to get the lead from that point. But I thought Austin would‑‑ I don't know what Austin would have done for sure, but I assumed, knowing him as I do, he was probably going to help me once. You know what I mean? And after that you're on your own.
But other than that, Ricky, I didn't know what his plan was or anybody else's. We really hadn't talked to the 14. We were just kind of waiting until the last lap and going to make a run. That's what we were trying to do.
KERRY THARP: Let's also hear from our top Sunoco finishing Rookie of the Year candidate, good fifth place finish here today by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He drives the No.17 Nationwide Insurance Ford for Roush‑Fenway. Ricky, congratulations on a solid run. You ran up front, certainly were in position there, had the caution flag not come out perhaps to really make something happen on that last lap. Talk about your run and what you saw the last lap.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, first off, I thought the racing was great all day. We were two, three, four wide for a long time, and cars seemed to be able to make moves and get some momentum going.
For our Nationwide Insurance team we were solid all day, in the top 10 a lot of the day, and led a few laps, which is good for us. We're trying to get the ball rolling here late in the season, and that last lap there I was trying to hang back, time it right where Paul and I could either kind of get a run on the 14 and go to the inside and see if we could make something happen or get him to pull out and go low and us get back in line on the top and try to have a full head of steam for Dale and Jamie there coming down to 3 and 4. Just didn't time it quite right, and us and the 14 met right there in the middle and caused a crash.
Bummed that we caused that, but all in all, it was a good day for us.
Q. Ricky and Paul, as you rode in line there those last 10 laps, were you kind of surprised that everybody kept waiting and waiting, that you didn't go any earlier?
PAUL MENARD: I was. I thought for sure, as good as the middle was all day long, I thought for sure the 20, the 22, 48, some of those guys would get that rolling at the end, and it just never happened. My spotter kept telling me where they were, and I think the closest guy was like six cars behind us. I'm pretty surprised that it didn't make further headway.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, I thought when they said the 22 was lining up on the bottom with about five to go, I knew they weren't going to have near enough time to get it going and organized to get that momentum. At that point I knew it was going to be just up to us top five, six cars there running the top. It seems like throughout the race there was a lot of guys that were able to pull out and make a move and leave me hanging. You know, I was going to be that guy to make the first move, and so we tried it. It just didn't play out.
Q. Ricky, what happened with Austin out there? What exactly did you see from your vantage point?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: You know, I had been running half throttle there and timing my run off of 2. We couldn't seem to get a good run off of 4, so I thought 2, coming off of 2 was going to be my best place to get that done. We hung back there a little bit, and we had a good run coming, and when I pulled out a little bit there to go to the bottom, he pulled down the block and I tried to get back to the top as quick as I could thinking the momentum was going to carry us around the outside there, and we just met right there in the middle.
Q. And June, you said you had the best car of the race, that this was the best car that you've had since you've been at Hendrick Motorsports. Was there anybody in particular that you worked better with drafting with, one driver or the other?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: No, not really. We had a really good car. We've had some good cars at Daytona. For some reason we come to Talladega we haven't been able to get them to run or we'd tear them up and never find out how good they were. For some reason today the car was fast. I didn't really have to worry about who we were working with or around. I really didn't try to piss anybody off, but I just didn't worry about trying to help everybody and trying to be everybody's friend out there. You've got a run, you take it. Everybody sort of understands what the situation is. When you get a good run, they don't come every lap, you've got to take your opportunities.
Q. Junior, one of the things that we saw some people immediately went to the back and tried to use that strategy. You never did, you raced up front all day, and obviously that worked out well. If you could talk a little bit about that.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, when you try to ride in the back and you try to go, it's usually typically the race is two or three wide for the first 10 rows and you can't go anywhere. You can't go anywhere. So we always end up packed up behind that mess, and then we find our way into the last lap wreck. So I decided that the car was pretty good in practice, and I felt like that if I could get up there up front, that seems to be working for Matt. He's been doing really well this year on the plate tracks, and he's always toward the front and never has to worry about working his way through the pack if he's coming out toward the front on that last pit stop, and we were good enough today to be able to do that. In the past I've tried to do it and just make the wrong moves or whatever and find myself in the back anyways. But the car was really strong today.
Q. Ricky, you've had some good runs here lately, some top 10s and stuff like that. If you could talk about building off that, you mentioned finishing off the season and really seeing some results like that.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Yeah, everybody is working real hard. I think our cars are getting better, and everybody at the shop is all hands on, just trying to make our season the best it can be here at the end. We struggled throughout the first half of the season, definitely more than I thought we should or definitely more than we wanted to. We've learned a lot. I think we're getting better as a team, and I'm learning a little bit more about what we need to do from practice to the race to make our car still fast throughout the race. It's been fun the last month or so, and we just need to keep it going.
Today was a great race for us, and we had a good one here last time, so we were looking forward to coming back to Talladega, and hopefully we can carry that on.
Q. This is for Ricky and Paul. I get the impression that Junior was going to wait until his moment to make the move, but for you guys is it kind of a risk versus reward scenario where you don't want to be the guy to pull out and you're waiting for the guys behind to make their move before you jump out in front of them?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Well, I don't know I haven't been in that position very often. I was just going off of what I saw throughout the race. It seemed like if you could get to the left rear quarter of the guy in front of you and get a run, you could definitely make the bottom work, especially through the corner and then drag race down the straightaway. That's what we were trying to do, or my plan was. And then when he pulled down the block I kind of changed my game plan a little bit and tried to go back to the top to get a run around the outside.
This is the first time I've really been in that position to do it.
PAUL MENARD: My plan was to wait for somebody else to go to the bottom first and keeping track of where the 20, the 22 and those guys were, and I'd try to pull in front of them when they got to me. I wasn't going to be the first guy to do that because I've done that before and been shuffled out pretty quick. I was going to wait for somebody else to make the move first and try to piggy‑back on.
Q. How long do you let your breath out that this weekend is over and that you've got great finishes before you turn your mind to Martinsville?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.: Our mind has been on Martinsville because I've only been there once and we were terrible. We went and tested three days there a couple weeks ago, and the crew chiefs and guys have been working real hard on our race cars to get them better on the short tracks. We've been thinking about that a long time. The crew chiefs, I feel like they kind of take this weekend off and sit up on the pit box and tell us when to pit.
We've been working towards Martinsville for a while now.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: We're testing in Texas Monday and Tuesday so we're working on that and trying to prepare a good car for that race. Looking forward to Martinsville. We didn't get to run there last time and feel like we always run real good there, so looking forward to that.
PAUL MENARD: We all leave tomorrow morning for Texas to test for a few days, three 12‑hour days, and we did the same test that Ricky did at Martinsville to prepare for this coming weekend. I think of Martinsville as a lot like a plate race. You prepare all you can and then the last 20 laps all hell breaks loose. You never know how you're going to end up.
Q. Dale, just looking at some of your stats, 22nd runner‑up in the Sprint Cup Series, four this year, four at Talladega. Do they feel like a near miss or‑‑
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I'm not going to complain too much because I'm driving some of the best cars in the garage and got some of the best engines being at a place like that. It really means a lot.
It's frustrating because the worst part about it really is is you go home and you'll spend months thinking about what you could have done to not be second. That's the worst part about it. Actually the process of it happening and doing it isn't that bad. You're kind of happy with being competitive and it was a good result. But you'll go back and think of a million things you could have tried different.
Q. You said you'll replay it and think about what you could have done differently. It seems there really wasn't anything you could have done differently because it all played out behind you, right?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I guess. We have a last lap wreck every time, and I guess next time we are in that situation we'll try to go a lap sooner. (Laughter.)
Q. Dale, obviously as they pointed out, 22 runner up finishes. You run as hard as you can every lap and try as hard as you can. What do you say to the multitude of people out there that every time Jimmie Johnson passes you as a racetrack, they're screaming it's team orders, it's team orders. We know that's not true.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, we hear about it on the radio every Monday on the Reaction Theater about how disappointed they are we haven't won yet. We're close, man. I'll tell you, looking at our runs since Chicago, this is the best my cars have been all year. I've had some of the best cars the last five races that I've had all season, and they say they're not doing anything different, but they sure are running really good. I think we're right around the corner from winning one of these races, and we're just going to keep trying.
Q. Paul, can you talk about the improvements that RCR has made in the closing months of the season, and what are your expectations for 2014 with the new lineup?
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, I'm excited for next year. We did a lot of work in the off‑season getting ready for the Gen‑6 car, as everybody did, and I feel like we started the year pretty strong as a company. The 27 team particularly, and then the 29 and 31 have come on really strong the second half of the season. We kind of fell off, and now we're picking back up.
Yeah, I feel pretty good about where we're at as a company. I know we're making big gains, chassis, aero, and the motor has gotten a lot better, so small improvements everywhere make a big difference. Ryan coming over next year. He's going to bring a lot of knowledge, too, and looking forward to working with him. I don't think we announced the third driver yet.
KERRY THARP: Dale, Paul, Ricky, congratulations. Good luck this week testing. We'll see you at Martinsville.
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