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June 6, 2016

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Brad Keselowski

Long Pond, Pennsylvania

THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by the driver of the No. 88 AXALTA Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. An exciting finish there. Take us through the last few laps, please.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, 41 was up there trying to save some fuel. He couldn't make it all the way running hard, and I didn't know if we could. Greg was saying we could but I didn't see how we were the only ones that could. We all pitted around the same time. Really we lost the race on the restart. The 24 and me were racing pretty hard. He was really trying to get his lead back, and he knew if he could get the lead, he was going to win the race. He got me loose a little bit. That slowed us up some. The 41 got a good run on him and I didn't do a good enough job holding him off. I could have been a little more aggressively doing some things differently. But we ended up getting tight and not really having anything anyways right at the end of the race, and the 41 saved enough. We just sort of‑‑ I just started backing my corners up trying to get through the center enough because Brad was catching us, and well, you know, it was all right. We certainly finished better than we should have. Our car wasn't quite a second‑place car. We started off really tight and really slow, probably about a 15th‑place car. Greg and the guys made a lot of changes and made the car better. Don't really know exactly how much better we got it compared to the competition, but we certainly made it more competitive. We just didn't get any practice. The drivers have been asking NASCAR to take away the morning practice and add a little bit to the second one to make that Saturday practice an hour and a half, and we didn't‑‑ it was just an hour. It takes you a minute to run around this track. You can't get but 13 damned laps in practice. I don't know how you're supposed to figure out what your cars are doing. So we came into this race with no idea. We made a lot of changes last night. We basically put in an old setup that worked in the past, and it started off missing the mark pretty bad, but we worked on it and got it better, and we'll take the points. We've had a rough month, so this is a decent finish for us.
THE MODERATOR: Also joined by the driver of the No.2 Miller Lite Ford, our third‑place finisher Brad Keselowski. Dale just talked about some of the strategy as it was out there towards the end of the race. Can you share a little bit from your perspective?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I thought we were okay to start the race. My teammate Joey Logano was really good. It was pretty obvious that if you could get to the lead, you had such an advantage, that someone had to be three, four tenths faster than you to pass you. So, I was just trying to keep the track position all day, and unfortunately we weren't able to do that with whatever penalty there.
But we were able to drive back up there towards the end and thought we had a lot of speed, just every car I would pass would take 10, 15 laps just being stuck in the wake. It's just part of it, I guess. All in all, a pretty decent weekend for us with the Miller Lite Ford and Team Penske, and proud of that effort to run up front and to have another solid weekend. We've had a lot of those lately, and it doesn't go unnoticed by me. I'm really proud of my team for those efforts. We just want to keep it going and want to turn them into wins.
All in all, a lot to be proud of, and keep on going, going to Michigan next week, and hopefully we can get those two more spots.

Q. Dale, I know you just said you weren't really happy with your car throughout the day, but does the second‑place finish alone, do you think it's still a positive you and your team can build off of coming off the rough month and coming into a track where you're really good at?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, it certainly feels better than finishing 15th. You know, and the car wasn't that bad. We just have such high standards after the last couple years we've had. Man, when you get just a little bit behind in this series, holy moly, it takes so much work to just regain what you lost, not really even to have an advantage, just to get back to where you were. A tenth out on that racetrack is impossible to find.
You know, it's a good step in the right direction. I felt like we could come in here and run good, and I think we learned a lot that we can understand how to get better for the next race here. I'm looking forward to Michigan, and obviously it's going to be a different package, but I think we'll run good on that track, too, and anticipate having a good run at Kentucky. We've always done really well on the repaves, so for whatever reason our cars hook up pretty good, or as a driver I just like that. I don't know.

Q. For Dale, Kurt was able to obviously save a lot of fuel today, and he didn't have his crew chief. Is it any different for a driver when you don't have the normal guy you listen to to kind of know whether you really need to save fuel or not?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: You know, these teams are so deep and there's so much talent. The crew chief is on the pit box but he's got four or five other guys with him, and they're up there every week and they understand how the races are working out. They've got guys within their organization that can step in in situations like that. You'd probably be surprised at how involved the crew chief is in the race weekend even though he's suspended. Them guys find unique ways to be able to communicate and be involved and be on top of everything the car and the team are doing with the car even though he's not there to see it with his own eyes. So it's pretty impressive. There's a lot of technologies. They can sit back in the shop and have all the computers and everything and see everything happening on the fly.
You know, you definitely don't want it‑‑ six weeks would be a little worrisome, but one race is not a big deal.

Q. Can you explain the importance of having a good spotter, especially during big restarts like we saw today, five and six wide? How important is a good spotter here?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I think we've both got probably two of the best spotters in the garage. Seems like every race here you get four or five wide down the front stretch and you're lucky to see one or two of them with the way the head surrounds are in the car and the way the mirrors are done.
That's sometimes frustrating. You're glad to have them. You'd rather do it all yourself, but you just can't. They're such a big help, and I'm really glad to have one of the best.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I agree. Both our spotters are really good guys, really talented and understand exactly what a driver is looking for. You get to working with the same guy for a long time and you sort of get to where you speak the same language and he knows what you want and don't want. You get it‑‑ as a driver it just gives you confidence having somebody that you trust and believe in and you know is going to give you good information. You can drive the car with more confidence. You've got confidence to do things out there.

Q. Junior, you had a battle with Chase Elliott. Chase led the most laps today. Can you talk about how he's matured in this first year? Did you expect him out of the box‑‑ I know he's with a great team, but the maturation he's shown is pretty incredible.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, you know, I don't think you get hired by a team like that unless you're good. I didn't expect him to struggle. I thought that he's got a lot of laps under his belt, he's been to a lot of high‑pressure situations, whether it's running his late models somewhere, or I mean, the competition is tough in the late model series, on those small tracks, and in the XFINITY Series, the Truck Series. He's been in so many scenarios if you look at his career over the last four or five years. He's been through it all. Certainly learned a ton, got a real good attitude, really calm, doesn't get excited about much, and he's got a really, really good crew chief, a guy that I think really is wrapping his arms around the idea working with Chase and grooming Chase. The team is doing an amazing job. They were always fast with Jeff, and I think the transition couldn't have been better. Jeff really set that team up for the transition and all that where it's so smooth. Just a perfect storm situation for Chase, and he's doing a great job. He's become a great teammate.

Q. Dale, there's been a lot of talk about Toyota's domination over the last really season now. We come out today and 300 cars beat all the Gibbs cars. It looked like the Chevys had a lot of speed today and had some good fuel mileage there at the end. Do you think today was an outlier or a sign of good things to come?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: At the start of the race the Toyotas were up there running good. I saw the 11 struggling a little bit, but I didn't think that would last all day. The 19 was pretty quick, the 18, 20 was good. Just track position late in the race. We lined up in some good lines, and did the right things instead of the wrong things down in Turn 1 and didn't lose any positions, maybe gained a position or two here and there. It's just so tough on them restarts to take advantage of what's going on around you even if your car is great. You've just got to have everything work out for you. But I don't think that the Toyotas have lost anything. We certainly are getting a little bit better and we're working hard. I know the whole series is working hard to catch the Gibbs stuff.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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