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October 15, 2017

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Lincoln, Alabama

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No.88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Not the result you wanted on your final trip around Talladega, but maybe one of your more adventurous runs around Talladega Superspeedway. Walk us through the race from your perspective.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, we took off there at the start of the race and saw the car had pretty good speed. We got a speeding penalty and a couple of things lost us a lot of track position. We were able to get up through there and get it back and get up into the top three again, top two, sitting there chasing Blaney and Chase there. That was fun running around the top with those guys because they're the future of the sport. It was just fun to link up and have some fun with those guys.
And then, you know, just got lucky on those wrecks. Just things start flying around, I don't know, you just‑‑ ain't nothing I'm doing, I'm just not getting hit, you know, and not losing control of my car. Just really luck.
But the last one knocked the right front end real bad and bent the splitter down about an inch and a half and knocked it on the racetrack, and when we got going there on that last restart, it just wouldn't go in the corners especially, so everybody around us was just wasting their time pushing us, and they sort of figured that out after a lap or two and decided to leave us alone, and we just kind of hung on there to get a seventh.
But I thought the car had enough to win before we bent the splitter down, and it was a great car all weekend. This has been a hell of a weekend for me, and I'm glad to be able to finish and finish well. That means a lot to me. I know a lot of folks came and traveled here to see us run, so I know they're disappointed we didn't win, but I'm glad they got to see us run the whole event, and hopefully they enjoyed it.

Q. I know wrecks can happen anywhere, but this was probably the biggest threat to your health remaining on the schedule. After walking out of here with your health intact, is there any sense of relief?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Absolutely. Had some trouble here in the past. I think that anyone who questions our desire to be here and compete this year and our desire to run hard and face can look at the risks that we took this afternoon, knowing that any of those crashes would have probably given me a bit of an injury that would have held me out of the rest of the season.
We definitely‑‑ it's hypothetical, but I think it says a lot about being out there and competing, wanting to compete, showing that we want to compete, and working hard, racing hard. This was one that I was worried about, you know, in the back of my mind, I was a little concerned. But you can't win the race if you race scared, and I've raced scared here before, and you don't do well when that happens, so you have to block it out and just go out there and take the risks and hope that it's just not your day to get in one of those accidents, and it wasn't.
I wish we could have seen what we could have done with a straight car at the end. We tried to push Brad into the lead, but the splitter was on the ground so bad, we got disconnected, and everyone literally went right around us, and it was downhill from there. But yeah, I was worried about this one, and you know, I'm glad we got through it.

Q. You had a lot of time in the car there the last few laps to sit. Did you let the moment wash over you, the enormity of it, or did you stay focused?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Hey, it's 110 degrees in there. Ain't nothing washing over you except your own sweat. I was sitting there cussing NASCAR the whole time if you want me to be honest with you. Like why are we sitting here, it's going to be like a three‑lap to the finish; why can't we at least coast around and get a green‑white‑checkered out of it. But I know that there's reasons to be sitting there, but it just is not the most comfortable situation.

Q. You said that you were glad just to finish but you knew your fans were disappointed. Do you feel any disappointment, and what do you feel about your chances to win in what's now kind of your last five races?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, I think we go to the racetrack with a positive attitude. We know we have won at some of these tracks coming up, and you just go in there with a good attitude and see how the weekend works out for you. You know, I don't think that we've lost hope on winning a race by any means with the rest of the year. We can't‑‑ I wouldn't want a driver who felt that way, wouldn't want a team who felt that way, either. So we'll go in there with a solid attitude and see how it works out for us.
I'm always disappointed when we don't run well at tracks I know we should, but we did run well today, but I know that everybody was probably‑‑ is a little bit of air out of the bag there at the end to finish seventh. I know those folks were hoping we could put something together, and I know there's a lot of folks came here, particularly to see this race because it's the last one here. I hate to leave slightly disappointed, but hopefully they enjoyed everything else they saw. I mean, we ran as hard as we could, did the best we could.

Q. It's been such an emotional weekend for you, just coming to this track that has meant so much for you and your dad over the years, and you mentioned that it's really kind of starting to sink in that this is your last season, and this is the last time you're going to be at this track. Can you describe the wave of emotions this entire weekend and throughout the race?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I really do owe a lot to this track and the support that we have had here from the fans, owe a lot to them. You know, it just has been a very fun place. When I was a little kid going to‑‑ we got to go to a handful of racetracks throughout the year, and this was always a fun trip. There was a pay‑to‑ride go‑kart track down where the hotels were where all the drivers and everybody stayed, and me‑‑ I'd get a hundred bucks from Dad maybe, and then Brad Means and me and Scotty Williams, Doug's son, and Bob Wickham's son Mike, a bunch of us would run over there and spend all our daddies' money riding go‑karts. We'd go over to the Hall of Fame and run around in that thing, just all over, looking at all the cool stuff in there.
And then during the race, we'd always pick on the folks that come to watch the wrecks. But me and the boys, we'd run around the garage looking at the cars that came in there, they were broke or wrecked or whatever, and they'd just bring them in there and park them and leave them. We'd be looking at all that.
Just so many good memories as a kid coming here, and that was back before hot passes and pit passes, garage passes. Man, you could run anywhere you wanted to go, and we was all over the place having fun and goofing off.
And then I got to come here‑‑ this is the first place I really run any laps outside of a late model car. Dad called me at the dealership and asked me to come here. They were testing the V8 car for the XFINITY Series, they were getting rid of the V6's, so I drove his car with Dave Marcus, which was great, me and Dave and dad. That was 1994.
So a lot of great memories here, and then obviously the career in Cup here, four in a row, all those things mean a lot to me. I hope to always have a great connection here, and trust me when I say that whatever the track needs from me, anytime they want anything, I'll be here to help promote and support this place no matter what the request is. They've done so much for me, and I want to remain very close.

Q. Dale, with this being your last plate race, you retire with 10 restrictor plate wins in your career. Does it mean anything to you that you'll go down as one of the best restrictor plate racers in the history of NASCAR?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Absolutely. Anytime anybody says you're the best at anything, it's an awesome feeling. I can't deny that it feels awesome to hear that. People consider you good at anything, it's a great feeling. I knew that I wasn't going to win 200 races and seven championships and do all those great things. I just wanted to come in here and be considered talented. But to be great at anything was beyond my imagination.
I appreciate people's compliments on my plate driving and the success we've had at all the plate races.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, thanks for all the time you gave us this weekend, and good luck next week in Kansas.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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