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April 9, 2016

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Chase Elliott

Fort Worth, Texas

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by tonight's second‑place finisher of the Duck Commander 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No.88 Nationwide Chevrolet. This is his sixth top‑5 finish at Texas Motor Speedway. Late charge there at the end, Dale. Just talk about your evening.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, we had a great car. We didn't really know we had that good a car, but when the race started, we were real tight. We made some good adjustments to get the car handling well, and then really controlled the balance of the car the rest of the night with the track bar. We had about a second‑ or third‑place car.
The 78 was very good. I didn't think we were ever as good as he was. He just had such old tires there at the end. I was really surprised that they didn't hang on better than they did.
We got caught on pit road when the 30 wrecked and got the Lucky Dog. Very fortunate to get the Lucky Dog there. We were going to have to take a wave‑around either way, and kind of got back up there a little bit, and then we pitted for tires and lost a couple spots there, but just because some guys stayed out.
We got lucky at the end to be able to restart on the inside. The outside was kind of difficult, and we restarted fifth and were able to get up to third and raced the 22 at the end. It was fun. I enjoyed driving the car tonight. The car was very loose and very challenging but a lot of fun for me. Obviously our car was good, so passing guys‑‑ we had a lot of passing, which with the '14 or '15 package, I'd have never got by Joey, so it was fun to have an opportunity to sort of set somebody up and get it by him there at the end, and that's due to the direction we went this year with the low downforce. Pretty cool.
Kyle put it on them at the end. He ran as hard as he could, and his car was there for him. Sucks for Martin because he had such a great car, but Martin has just got to remember that he's going to get that opportunity again. They've got a great team.
That's it.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by tonight's fourth‑place finisher, Chase Elliott, driver of the No.24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy. First career top‑5 finish in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. Talk about your run. You obviously found something here at Texas Motor Speedway considering your success in the XFINITY Series.
CHASE ELLIOTT: It was a solid night. Obviously I hated to have to start in the back, but I think having a good qualifying effort allowed us to get a good pit selection. I think that helped us to try to gain spots throughout the night, but the biggest thing was just having a good car. I was really happy with it, especially on the long run, and we made some gains throughout the night to try to help our short run speed. I thought we did that.
Definitely still have some work to do on my end, and we'll keep digging at it. We're definitely not content. We know we have some work to do, and we'd like to be contenders. So we're going to keep working at it.

Q. Dale, as a competitor, what do you make of this run Kyle is on?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, you know, I think it's‑‑ how many races has he won? He wins a lot of races.

Q. Last four races, last four national touring races.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, two Cup races in a row. He wins a lot of XFINITY races. If he's in an XFINITY race he's got about a 90 percent chance of winning that. But he's won‑‑ in '08 he won 10 races. The guy is good. He's got a great team behind him, and they put themselves in position at the end to challenge Martin, and Martin couldn't hold him off.
I ain't surprised by any means, and we've just got to work hard to try to get that opportunity. We had a pretty good car, and I think better than Kyle most of the night, but in the end he had that track position that we didn't have.

Q. Dale, all four Hendrick cars in the top 10 tonight at Texas; how big was that for the organization?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Great. I think the company as a whole is pushing real hard to improve, and there's an impression within the company that we need to grind a little bit and gain‑‑ make some gains going forward into the middle of the season here. But I was real encouraged with my car tonight.
Usually we typically have a top‑10 or a top‑5 car, but tonight we had one of the best two or three cars, and you can't ask for anything better than that. That's going to get you opportunities to win races when you have a car that's one of the third best cars or second best cars in the field. That's a lot to ask when it really comes down to it. There's so much competition out here, to have that good of a car.
So I was real encouraged by how we ran tonight compared‑‑ going forward with the mile‑and‑a‑half stuff.

Q. Running last night's XFINITY race, how much did that help with your success tonight?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I don't really know that it did to be honest with you. The cars are very different. Other than just making laps on the racetrack and moving around and things, maybe finding a lane that might work later in the run. I think the cars are so different, it's hard to compare a lot in my personal opinion.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I think it really helps if the crew chiefs take advantage of the opportunity to stick around and watch the race and watch what they do with tire pressures and see what adjustments and listen to the driver. Like Chase said, as a driver you learn certain lines. I learned some lines that I happened to use tonight that ran as well for me as they did the night before, particularly entering Turn 3. I reentered a lot lower and chopped the corner a lot more, I guess, than most guys. A lot of guys were arcing and I could beat them way deep into the middle of the corner, and I was doing that last night.
There's some things out on the track that you learn, but I kind of rely on Greg to try to take advantage of that opportunity to learn air pressure and stuff because that stuff kind of correlates. But the cars don't drive anything like each other.

Q. Chase, I forgot to ask you out there, but how much discussion was there about having you come back in at the very end to pit? What went into that?
CHASE ELLIOTT: It was just Alan's decision to come back, and it was a quick decision. He didn't have a lot of time. Once the caution came out, I think pretty much the first time we came back, pit road was open. Those crew chiefs are put in a position they've got to make a call in a hurry, and they have all‑‑ they definitely have my respect because I respect them for what they do because that's tough, tough spot to be in, but as I've said, we're a team. I'm going to support his decision, right, wrong or indifferent, so I was happy we did it, and we tried to make the most of it.

Q. Compared to the other tracks that you've run this year, how did you find the tire degradation here at Texas?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I would say probably not as much as Atlanta or Fontana. I would say this place is to me‑‑ I haven't been racing here nearly as long as Dale, but I feel like Texas is becoming more and more like Atlanta, at least the past two or three times I've been coming here, so I think the longer we go, I think you'll see the racing improve as the racetrack wears out like it has in Atlanta.
To me the surface and the tire wear and the change throughout a run is very similar to what I saw in Atlanta a few weeks ago.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, it is like Atlanta but without as many bumps, and I think that creates a little bit more security for the driver because we don't have to deal with so many bumps and stuff and challenges like Atlanta has so many bumps. But if we could get every track like this, we'd want it that way as drivers. This is perfect, Atlanta, all that wore‑out stuff. We really want to be able to chase these cars around, and when they're stuck like glue and you just can hammer down, that's not any fun. What we was doing tonight is where we really enjoy it.

Q. Kind of along the lines of the tires, there's a new right side tire compound that we saw here in Texas. Did you enjoy that more than what you had in Atlanta or would you prefer more of that tire compound at these mile‑and‑a‑halfs?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: That's tough to say. I think I was happy that‑‑ last year and the year before that, I don't remember what the weather did, but whether we had a lot of rubber on the track when the race started, but I unwound the right front tire in both those races in like 20 laps, and that just shouldn't happen. We do want the tire to wear out, and we do want the tire to slow down a lot. If we could get‑‑ the more off throttle time we get, the better the drivers like it because we can race. You can drive in the corner and try to outdrive somebody into the corner because they're lifting and try to get in the gas way sooner than them, so that creates passing. But you want to be able to move up the racetrack, not worry about unwinding the tire or tearing the tire completely apart, so the tire tonight seemed to be a little more durable without being too hard, and it still wore, fell off, slowed down.
The one thing we didn't see was the top groove really get great for anybody. A couple guys used it, but they seemed to fade real bad at the end of the run if they ran up there, like it wore their tires out more. Usually that top line is a lot more dominant, so that was disappointing, but I think that had a lot to do with the temperature. The cool temperature adds a little bit of grip in the track, and that brings the groove gown and makes that bottom groove a little more competitive, and I think that's why we didn't really see a wide track, because it's so cool tonight. Running at night really brings the groove down, brings the grip into the track and narrows up the track a little bit. But the tire was better.
CHASE ELLIOTT: I mean, I think just times two, really. I have a hard time telling much of a difference of the compound from here to Atlanta. To me the surface of the racetrack is going to take over the feel of the car I think more than tire compound does. And like Dale said, we want them to wear out. We obviously don't want them to fall apart.
That's a tough task. We always talk about that and wanting tires to fall off. We also understand Goodyear is in a very tough box. The people at Goodyear, I've been to their factory and watched them put together the tires. They do a really good job, and they work really, really hard at it. It's not a lack of effort. They are put in a fine box because we want tires to wear out but we don't want them to fall apart, so at some point they kind of have to let us pick, run hard, fall apart, or save your stuff and don't. So at some point, like I said, they're in a tough box, but I think they do a good job with it.

Q. Dale, at the end there Truex was kind of hung out to dry with the old tires. What's it like; he's a friend of yours, you know he's had a dominant car, and you're passing him? Do you feel any ounce of sorrow for him at all?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I feel bad for him. You love to see your friends do good. He had a great car tonight, and I was hoping obviously if we couldn't win the race that one of my teammates would, but also you're pulling for your buddy. He had such a dominant car, but he's just got to remember that he's with such a good program now, he's in a very good position personally and professionally, and that he's got such a great crew chief and a great group of guys around him that he's going to get opportunities like this again. You know, he just has to not beat himself up or make it too hard on the guys, just kind of bring your guys up and get them excited for the next race and be excited about how fast your car was.
You know, that's one of the things that's so hard to get in this sport is speed and be that competitive, it's so hard to do. You luck into good runs every once in a while, but to be dominant is really hard to do, so he should be real proud of that and just happy that his team strong and look forward to the rest of the year.

Q. Dale, at one point during the race you were coming in to pit, and Greg was going to just make an air adjustment and you made a comment about "let me put this in perspective for you."

Q. Could you talk a little bit about that and about the communication you have with him now?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, you know, we‑‑ sometimes we're not quite where we need to be on communication as far as if I tell him the car is loose, he can't‑‑ he's not quite‑‑ I guess maybe I need to be more descriptive in giving him understanding how loose the car is. Usually I got used to Steve just listening to my tone and knowing exactly what kind of adjustment to make. So Greg, we were really, really loose. He was going to put a half a round of wedge in the car and a half a pound in the right front, and I told him I wanted to put in perspective, the run before I was two inches up on the track bar and the last run I was two inches down, so I had a four‑inch swing in the track bar. That's a good percent, percent a half a wedge that he needs to put in the car so I can get the track bar back where I want it.
So we're just‑‑ I've got to be more descriptive to help him understand how loose or how tight the car is instead of assuming that he's knowing what I'm thinking just by the tone of my voice, I guess. But we'll get there.
We've just got to spend more time together. One of the things that me and Steve did was spend time away from the track, and I think that's what me and Greg need to push ourselves to do more of, and we'll get to know each other a lot better than what we're seeing at the racetrack. We don't really get to know each other at the track that much because we're working so hard.

Q. Junior, this was a great night for Hendrick, for your team, to have all four cars in the top eight, and maybe coming into the race there was still a lot of talk about Toyota and that team and they were doing well. But could you speak about having your team do so well and have such a solid night, either one of you?
CHASE ELLIOTT: I definitely think it was a solid night. It's not a perfect night. We would love to turn all four cars in the top 10 to all four cars in the top 5, and I think that's a goal we have to shoot for. I think we have a team and people that are capable of doing that, so we want to keep working at it. I think as I said before, we're‑‑ for us, we're excited to run in the top 5. We're also not content, and we want to be contenders, and running fifth isn't a contender. You've got to be up a little higher.
That's our goal, and we'll keep working at it.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I was happy with our team. I was happy with my car. It was great to see Chase up there. I got to race with him a little bit, and his car was doing some great things, and he was driving a really good line.
Our other guys had‑‑ maybe the 48 didn't run as well as he expected, but they'll get going. We're all in the same shop, so we lean on each other, and it'll get going.

Q. Dale, yesterday Kyle Busch said that the Drivers' Council has met about four times this year. What have those proceedings been like this year compared to last year? What have the new members, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, what have they brought to the table?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, just new perspective. It's going really good, and we're getting better at understanding what our role is as a group, and we're trying to represent the rest of the field and all the other drivers as best we can, trying to make sure that the things that we're asking for or working with NASCAR on are things that everybody feels we need, and we are starting to strengthen our relationship with the RTA competition committee and understanding how we need to work with them to go forward over the next several years with the things that we want in the sport and changes that we think could be better.
But it's about kind of knowing your role and exactly what your job is as a driver, and we're getting‑‑ we started out so clunky, and it was not working and not doing very well last year. By the end of the season, we were a runaway train. It was awesome. We were getting so much accomplished, and we got some new guys, but they're good guys, guys that know a lot and are very smart. It's awesome to have them all in there and pushing real hard, and everybody is wanting the same things. It gets you fired up about what direction the sport is going in.
I think we've made a lot of great changes in the last 12 months, 24 months, that I'm not saying the council has a lot of credit for it or a lot to do with it, but we definitely have an influence, and it's a great feeling.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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