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NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: DUCK COMMANDER 500


April 11, 2015


Dale Earnhardt, Jr.


FORT WORTH, TEXAS

LOUIS MORA:テつ We're now joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No.88 Nationwide Chevrolet.テつ He scored his fifth top‑5 finish at Texas Motor Speedway and his fourth top‑5 finish of the season.テつ Take us through your night.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:テつ Oh, man.テつ It was a long one.テつ You know, this race is real long.テつ It's one of the 500‑mileers that actually seems to need to be a 500‑miler.テつ We started out a really quick car.テつ We were happy with our car in practice so I anticipated being competitive, and I think we drove up inside of top 10 there.テつ We had a couple lug nuts that didn't get on the left rear on the first stop, so we had to come back down.テつ That was real good on our guys to make that call.テつ When it comes down to NASCAR letting us police these lug nuts, our crew guys need to be up front and honest, and that's definitely better than the alternative for sure.
We got back down pit road and got that sorted out, got back up there to 10th again, somewhere around there, and I don't remember what happened next.テつ But it just seemed like everything was going against us, and we were having trouble sort of beginning our race and getting into a rhythm, and we had to pass a lot of cars tonight.テつ But once we finally got the track position, I thought we were a top‑5 car for sure.テつ We didn't have quite enough for the 4 or the 48 until right at the end.テつ I think from 20 to go to 10 to go we were the best car.テつ If I had been able to get in front of the 4, I had him cleared off of 2, but he was right on my corner and I really didn't know for sure whether he was there or not.テつ I passed him on the bottom and I didn't like the top early in the run, so I wanted the bottom in 3 and 4, so I stayed down there, and he beat me around 3 and 4.テつ But if I maybe could have pulled in front of him there, maybe I could have held him and the 48 off because the 48 was still behind us at that time.テつ Because the next 10 laps I thought, damn, I'm stuck behind them, they're holding me up a little bit.テつ Eventually with 10 to go, they were quite a bit quicker than us.
Once you get that clean air, I don't know what we could have done with it.
I had the car I anticipated I would have.テつ So many pit stops, so many‑‑ a lot of great stops, a lot of good stops that maintained track position.テつ Pit road was pretty cut and dried.テつ We come down, get four tires, there was some opportunities for us to stay out or get two, you never really fool with that, it's good to be on offense with good rubber under the car all the time.テつ We made some good adjustments.テつ We seemed to have a good pattern of what was working for us and I think by the end of the race we had our car as good as we had it all night, so that's a good job on the crew chief when the car is the best on the last run.
I just like racing here.テつ I think it was a good show.テつ It was raining debris out there for a while, and we were needing some green‑flag runs to get some of the track position back that we were having trouble keeping, and finally the rain shower of debris ended and we were able to finish the race.
It's a long race, and you get mentally prepared for it because it's pretty tough.テつ It feels almost like the 600 in some ways.テつ It's a slick old track, and the pace slows down.テつ You work your guts out in there driving that car around there because the track is so slick, so it's a very physical race, and I had a blast.

Q.テつ You mentioned the vibration and the crew guys being honest about the lugs not being on.テつ Going into the season it seemed like a lot of the talk was since NASCAR is not policing this now, crew chiefs might gamble but yet today we saw a ton of guys come in with vibrations.テつ Is it just this track?テつ What's your thoughts on that?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:テつ I think we all were a little worried when NASCAR said we were going to have to police it because that's just a big change from the norm and what we've done in the past.テつ The question is can we police ourselves.テつ NASCAR doesn't have the officials on pit road to do it anymore, so they made a change and put it on our laps.テつ You've got understand how serious a situation is.テつ You get out there on the race track and we got the corner speeds are 18 miles an hour faster at Vegas, 18 miles an hour faster in the middle of the corner, and if you lose a wheel going that fast, it's going to be very good.テつ So you have to have guys that are up front and honest that you trust.テつ If your tire guy done makes a mistake, if he makes a mistake and raises his hand and says look, man, I made a mistake, you catch it right then, right under the caution, you get it fixed, you get a chance to get back going.テつ Otherwise if you don't speak up, you get a bad vibration, the driver is going to come in, and he ain't going to knock his head against the fence out there when you think the tire is coming off and you lose a lap.テつ Then you're in big trouble.
It's a bit of a process, but I think that the guys, the tire guys that are honest and feel confident about what their decision‑‑ feel confident about I got them tight or didn't get them tight, that's the kind of guys you want coming over the wall to help you.テつ You need them guys looking out for you the same way you look out for them.テつ I think over time it'll be a good system, and it'll be fine.テつ It was probably like this before when racing started, before there were 43 officials up and down pit road.

Q.テつ Jimmie or Harvick has won the last I think six mile‑and‑a‑half races now dating back to I think Charlotte last year or something.テつ If you're not driving a Hendrick‑powered car right now, what kind of chances do you have out there?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:テつ Yeah, I don't know.テつ I'm glad I'm driving them.テつ And we go to Bristol next, so I guess that's a better opportunity for me because my name is not Jimmie and my name ain't Kevin.
Our cars are really good.テつ Our motors are amazing.テつ I'll be honest, I mean, I've been a lot more competitive over the last couple years.テつ We've got a lot of great people working at that organization, but my resurgence or whatever you want to call it is mainly due to how good the cars are, how fast the cars are, how well prepared we are, how much work we do.テつ We do a lot of work.テつ It ain't‑‑ you put in a lot of work, and there's some other guys out there that show speed, and Harvick, them guys are unstoppable right now.テつ I was surprised he didn't win tonight, but he's at Texas and Jimmie is very strong here.テつ It could have been either one of them.
Yeah, Jimmie is a six‑time champion.テつ He's got a hell of a rテδゥsumテδゥ.
But I'm glad I'm where I'm at.テつ I wouldn't want to be anywhere else because it doesn't look like them other cars are much fun to drive.

Q.テつ You said on pit road something about being conservative a little bit I guess without having a win.テつ I assume that means that you just need to be cognizant of points and stuff, and I'm curious since you won the Daytona 500 last year you didn't have to go through this early stretch without a win, so can you just talk about how different the mentality is when you don't have that early win?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:テつ Yeah, it's different.テつ It's not a real serious situation that's kind of bugging you, but it's in the back of your mind.テつ One thing I don't know about this new system is will we have 16 winners this year?テつ I don't know.テつ It don't look like it the way Harvick's running.テつ If he wins enough races, the odds are not really good to have 16 winners, and if we don't win a race, I think we're a good enough team to put enough points together to get one of them spots in the back, so I'm probably worrying for nothing.
But I don't want to assume anything, and nothing is a sure thing.テつ I want to win to know I'm in.テつ I don't want to wait all the way to Richmond or whatever to count points, and once you get that win, I've talked about it before, you get to do things with fuel mileage, you get to be aggressive and try to‑‑ if you're a couple laps short you stretch it.テつ We won some races last year doing that, because of that.テつ Just mentally you don't have as much pressure on you to make a call, right, so a lot of the calls Steve‑‑ I'll tell you, and Steve will probably admit it, last season is probably the easiest season he had to call because of that win.テつ It really took the pressure off him having to worry about, man, do I take four, two, do I don't stop?テつ Hell, just come on in, let's try to win.テつ We've got a win.テつ If we finish 10th, who cares, second, who cares?テつ We've already got a win, we're locked in.テつ Let's go put tires on and win the race or let's stay out and make the fuel last and win the race.テつ You can be really aggressive.テつ I don't know what it's like to be a crew chief, but I imagine it seems pretty hectic, and once you get them wins, the pressure really releases a little bit.

Q.テつ Dale, you said after the race I'm disappointed with myself for not making a move I should have made.テつ What move was that?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:テつ I had Harvick cleared off of 2.テつ I should have pulled out in front of him, but I didn't and if I'd have pulled in front of him, I don't know if he would have went to the inside or just pushed me down the straightaway.テつ I think I was fast enough and a little bit better than him and Jimmie right then at that moment just for about 10 laps, and if I could have got him behind me and I don't know how their cars would have reacted to the dirty air.テつ Maybe I could have gotten by that 1 pretty quickly and won the race.テつ No matter if you come third, second, you come close, you always think there was something you should have done different.テつ That's one that's going to bug me for a few hours.テつ The other side of it is we've had a couple tough weeks.テつ We've had very fast cars but the results haven't been very good and we've been frustrated, so it was good to get a good finish in the bank to reassure ourselves that this is where we need to be running and should be running every week.

Q.テつ You mentioned a few times this year and again today that you're happy with where the cars have been this year.テつ What about your relationship with Greg?テつ Has that progressed to the point that you'd like so far this season?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:テつ Yeah, it's good.テつ He's not Steve.テつ They don't have the same personality, not that one is better than the other.テつ Me and Steve became such great friends, so it was like working with your best friend every day.テつ Me and Greg are working on that relationship.テつ I've got a lot of respect for him.テつ He's a great family man, and he's‑‑ we all swap advice, and he's real honest and I trust what he‑‑ knowing the things he's done to get to where he is, I trust his judgment.
I need that relationship.テつ That's a relationship I want to have with my crew chief.テつ I want to be best friends.テつ I want to be good pals.テつ I want to enjoy working together, look forward to‑‑ I need things to motivate me to make the racing enjoyable.テつ When that relationship is really good, it really, really ramps everything else up, and it's going great.テつ He's putting together some great cars.テつ I know he's doing that.テつ He's doing some great things and I'm glad to have the opportunity to work with him early in his career because he's really great.テつ He's one of the best crew chiefs, I think, in the garage.

Q.テつ To follow up on that, it seemed like with Steve, he had more of a cheerleader role for you, keeping you up, and listening to you and Greg, it's kind of the opposite.テつ Would you agree that you tend to try to pick him up?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:テつ No, I don't.テつ I think that he‑‑ he actually does a good job of saying a thing or two about‑‑ like tonight, we had a couple good restarts, and he's like, man, you're making a lot of people proud of here what you're doing out there, working hard, we see it and we're real proud of you.テつ There's been moments away from the spotlight where he's put his arm around me and said, man, we're going to fix this or this is going to get better, trust me.テつ He's actually‑‑ he sees when I'm concerned or when I've got a little‑‑ when there's a question in my mind.テつ We've got that kind of chemistry, and it'll get better and better the more we get to know each other.テつ But at the same time he obviously isn't the cheerleader that Steve was, and what I did‑‑ I thought about it in the off‑season, what I wanted to do was try to take it upon myself to be a better motivator.テつ Instead of sitting there and waiting on‑‑ I used to just sit there and let Steve motivate me, motivate the team, and I thought, you know, I can't always depend or count on that, and maybe I need to step up and just have a better attitude, let the guys‑‑ we had some trouble tonight on pit road.テつ Let the guys know it's not a big deal, it's a long race, we'll get it fixed, because I don't want them carrying around that on their backs for the next stop.テつ I want them to shake it off.
Steve was really, really good at controlling that stuff.テつ I don't really know what goes on inside the pit box right now with Greg.テつ I don't have a lot of experience being in the pits with him.テつ But I think he's a great leader, and like I say, our relationship is getting better and better.
The cheerleader that Steve was was really, really good, but it also let me off the hook a lot.テつ And now working with Greg, I've got to be more accountable for carrying my own emotions and taking care of myself.

Q.テつ Dale, last night after the XFINITY race you said you were going to go over and talk to Greg about changes you wanted to make for tonight.テつ Did running the XFINITY race last night help you?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.:テつ One thing I was surprised about that race was how loose the car was.テつ I did talk to Greg about that and we did make some more adjustments to the car.テつ I gave him some persuasion to do some things that he was on the fence about doing.テつ We had a great car when we unloaded, but it definitely safeguarded us against some things that I thought we faced tonight.テつ Yeah, it always helps.テつ I think he was able to be in the pits and learn a lot about air pressure.テつ He also watched the adjustments we made on the XFINITY car and learned from those, and he has a great relationship with Dave Elenz and was able to conversate with him quite a bit about some of those adjustments, so that certainly helps.テつ It helps Greg if he has any kind of doubt or any questions about an adjustment or preparation for the car, it definitely helps him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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