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October 19, 2008
KERRY THARP: We are going to roll into our post race press conference and we are pleased to be joined in here by race runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. He drives the No. 88 Amp energy National Guard Chevrolet.
Had a great run out there today, Dale, and your thoughts about your performance chasing that 48 all day, but certainly you've got to be pleased with your strong run.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I have to hands it to Chad, and the whole team, Jimmie, he did it a great job today. Really he had such a good race car. He was able to cut, roll the center (inaudible, video static) tried to put the gas and get the gas to full throttle. It was pretty difficult for me at the end, and I feel like I was going to just try to do what I could with Jimmie, but he was too strong, just trying to protect our position on the last lap.
Pretty tough, pretty proud of my team. We had a long day and it was a tough day, run real hard and this place, you have to run so hard here every lap, and to get what you want, to get the finish you want, you can't really take any time off or pace yourself any. I'm proud of my team. We did a good job on pit road and had some good pit stops that helped us stay up front, and I had some good adjustments from Tony Jr., too. We started the race car really tight, and we had it running up there real good at the end. I'm just proud of my team.
Q. You've watched Jimmie's team from afar over the last few years and now seeing it up close what they are doing. How good is what they are doing in the Chase?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Oh, man, it's pretty obvious I think to everyone that they are such a great race team. Reminds me a lot of -- it's very, very similar to the three serious -- I don't know, there's a lot of great teams that were huge into sport, obviously Daddy had a great run and was dominant. He run a lot of races on just brute instinct and determination. But they only really dominated the sport in '87 and maybe a little bit in '86. All of the other things they did in sport were just by brute determination.
By Jimmie and those guy ares are slick and they are faster week and they win races by being the best car. I look at the history of the sport, and I think about Richard Petty and David Pearson and the Wood brothers and Yarborough, and later on Darryl and Junior, and I put them right up there with them teams there, and there's maybe only a good handful or half a dozen teams that are in that group and I feel like they are really achieving that. To do it, Dad and Jeff and several other great competitors, Rusty and all those guys were great race car drivers and had awesome careers.
But to pack it in three years and just dominate like that, there's only a good half a dozen teams that's ever been good like that and been that strong consistently year after year after year.
Q. On the long run you seemed to be able to reel Jimmie back in a little bit. Do you think if that last 30-some laps had gone green the whole way you might have a chance to get to him?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I felt like I had a better car handling, a better set of tires, my car was a little free, it had been free the first 20, 30 laps of the run. So I was struggling with that a little bit.
We were, I felt like, the best car at lap 100 on tires, but you're never going to get that here hardly. You might get it once or twice in the middle of the race like we did today but you won't get a hundred. NASCAR is not going to let that thing go green to the end. We had a race to green to the end, I can't remember how long, but you're going to get a caution near the end, bunch the field up and get the fans back into it and give everybody at home a good race to watch.
You know that going and you try to set your car up for that and be ready to be good when you need. It was real tight, the air pressure was real low on the left side and I was real tight for five or ten laps and the car would start pinning the tires up by the curb, and by lap 50 just turned into a great race car and we just get better and better as guys were falling off really bad. I would have liked to have had that opportunity and I think I could have give Jimmie a good run for his money, but I knew for a fact that that wasn't going to be the outcome.
Q. Dale, you talked about your perspective on where Jimmie in history, a lot of people say second can be the first loser but is it almost a win, anyway, for you, especially at a track like this?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I did the best I could today and got a great result out of. It I would have liked to won the race. I felt like we got it going at about lap 300 and I really started Targeting trying to win the race, and consistently considering and thinking that every lap we had been just -- the first half before the race you're just tuning on the car and concentrating on how to make the car roll to the center, power down and do all of these things. And we got the car better and better and better, and I was just really determined on trying to win and whatever it took to win. And we ran hard and got guys up on the racetrack and tried to take positions with force and whatever.
But I just couldn't, I never had an opportunity. I could catch Jimmie and those guys in traffic and maybe make a move at that point or do something there, but running in a straight line, their car was so dominant, man, I just didn't have an opportunity with the kind of -- with the way our car was handling, there was nobody was going to be able to get to him and even try to get by him. His car was just so good.
But it does feel good, it does feel great finishing like this. We have had such bad luck the last six weeks and tore up so many race cars. I'm proud of myself all year long of not wrecking cars and keeping all my cars in one piece. I think we went through about six in the last month or something like that; it's been terrible. But this is good for my team.
Q. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but seems like to me that you were in a hell of a fix at the end because if you have a car that takes awhile to come in, you can't afford a caution flag because you want a long run, but by not having a caution flag you're so far behind that it doesn't do as much good because of the time it will take you to track him down. I know that seems kind of simple, but it puts you in a tough spot where you're trying of -- damned if you do either way?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not really. With 60 to go, with 60 or 50 to go before the caution came out, we were catching the tail end of the field, and that was going to be really what I needed to put some moves on Jimmie was see him get in traffic and struggle. Or we were in the tail end of the field, I can't remember.
But I feel like that my best chance was for the race to go green, and my best -- my worst chance was how it turned out.
Q. Obviously you had Carl running close at the end. How tough was it to hold him off down the stretch?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, Carl is a real hard racer and you know, we got to running there earlier in the race and I took care of him a little bit.
I don't mind a guy getting into me a little bit. I just don't want to get spun out or run up into the marbles, you know. When it's ten to go, and a guy gets underneath you, you have to expect to get run up a racetrack a little bit and the guy is going to use up some of the racetrack a little bit. But I just don't like get putting in the marbles, and that's all I was really worried about at the end of the race here.
We run together about a hundred to go and took care of each other a little bit there and I guess, you know, he had that in the back of his mind there at the end of the race. I don't know, he can answer that.
But it was fun. I was trying to take my position. Me and Carl had about equal cars there at the end and I was having trouble getting a straight run out and getting the power down and having to stop at the end of the corner, and he had some opportunities to get into me a little bit if he wanted to.
Q. You were talking about beating and banging a little bit. Can you just talk a little bit about how balanced that with patience today you appeared to be pretty patient at times.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I was sitting there watching Tony Stewart, and he would run -- Tony is kind of funny to watch.
We were sitting there running and he's running real hard and his car starts pinning up on the conner and he just kind of drops back and punts. What he does is he'll just pull over and get behind you and cruise and try to wait on his car.
I'm sitting there thinking, you know what, Tony is always near the front of this thing near the end, and I'm always the one burning my brakes off and never having nothing to stop my car from going into the corner at the end of the race and rear-hopping the tires because the front brakes is burned off at the end of the race.
So I just started taking care of my car. I was doing the same thing at Charlotte. I was like, man, I never finish this race, never got top fives here and always lead or run or mess something up.
So today there was a lot of times we were sitting there running fourth and fifth and I was just sitting there chilling, keeping my two-car length distance between me and the guy in front of me and just laying off the brakes and rolling down in the corner and trying to save a whole lot of race car and see what happened there at the end is and see if it pays off and I never had good brakes at the end of these races because I run so hard these first 400 laps; so I was trying to take care of it.
Q. Kind of mean this in a humorous fashion, but we were talking the other day how you would like to see some other tracks into the Chase; if Jimmie keeps winning and doing so well, do you want to change it up to make sure he doesn't have the same luck the next two or three years going on?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think, you know, I'm fortunate enough to be in the shape shop as Jimmie and see how they work and what they do and hopefully a lot of that stuff is going to rub off on us. We look at their setups and our setups and we try to understand how their setup makes their car drive and what he likes and whatever, but I don't think I want to change it up too much.
It's good when you have a teammate running good, really good, because you like to lean on that. You know, Jimmie, I don't know, I would rather have him running really good, because I want to know what I need to put in my car every week, you know, or at least have a backup plan if we can't get it working, and having Jeff definitely provide that for us.
So I still have not really truly ran their setup here. I've always kind of -- we've still kind of huddled around our little thing we have been working on the last coupleful years because we run pretty good here but we may ease in that direction because they are having such good success and they are winning so many races.
KERRY THARP: We appreciate it very much, thank you and good luck in Atlanta.
We are also pleased to be joined by our third place finisher in today's race, Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Fusion. Carl is currently fourth in points, 198 out of the lead.
Carl, hard-fought race, your thoughts about how you performed out there today.
CARL EDWARDS: For us, this is almost a win. You know, we have never run this well here, so that was good for us.
You know, it's just Jimmie is just doing an unbelievable job. We had obviously some misfortune last week that you know, really, really made this race important. I felt like if we came here and ran good today it would keep our hopes alive, and if we didn't, it would put us in a hole. So it's a great day for us.
Q. As well as you ran and as pleased as you are with that, is this like the final nail in the coffin maybe for everybody with what Jimmie did?
CARL EDWARDS: No way. He could have any sort of trouble at the next two races and be right back there with us. So you know, with all of these guys that are kind of bunched together, look like all of us were within 40 or 50 points, second through fourth maybe.
So, it could happen to anyone. We saw what happened with Kyle and his team. Those guys seemed unbeatable and they just had the bad luck. You know, like what happened to us last week. We still don't know exactly what happened. Just some sort of gremlin in the electrical system.
No, this isn't over until the last lap at Homestead, that's for sure.
Q. Even though you said it's like a win for you, how does it feel when you're out there running maybe your career-best race so far at this place, and you still see that 48 up there just going away, going away, going away?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I mean, it feels just like you think it would feel like. You think, damn, those guys are good. You know, they are just good at what they do.
We all know how important this place is and how special it is for them, and I mean, I have a lot of respect for Jimmie and Chad and the way those guys compete. They are I think some of the best competitors out there. I mean, if you looked up competitor, it would be those guys. They are real competitive and have a lot of respect for everyone. So that's cool.
Q. I just thought about the second part of my question, considering that this is sort of their track, did you guys kind of come in here expecting to lose some points to them and just try to keep that to a minimum?
CARL EDWARDS: After practice yesterday, we thought, man, if everything goes perfectly, we can win this race. Our car was fast enough.
Bob and I actually talked about it and I said, "It would be awesome to win this thing."
He said, "Listen, Bud, if you can just finish in the Top-10 and not lose too, too many points at Martinsville, that's a win for us." So being realistic, this was a very successful day for us.
Q. You and Biffle and Burton are all sort of right there in the chasing mode, so they kind of had weeks this week like you had last week. So how are they feeling right now from your experience from last week? How does it feel to come in and see that happen?
CARL EDWARDS: It's frustrating when you have something bad happen, and you lose a bunch of points. You start to think, man, you know, this is going to be a whole 'nother year. It's like if you have a bad game bowling and you think, okay, this game will be over in a couple of frames and you just start over. You know, that feeling, boy, it feels good to start over.
But there is no starting over. You have to dig until the end. It's interesting that way. It crescendos pretty big that way the whole year. We've got to essentially go out and win the next four races; that's what we've got to do.
Q. I was wondering, NASCAR is getting away from more and more short-track events. What do you think it's going to take for NASCAR to add a short-track field to these cookie cutter tracks?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, we have been having good races at all the racetracks. The short tracks are real fun. They are exciting. I think the fans enjoy them a lot. I liked watching them before I was racing here.
I think NASCAR is doing the best we can. We still have some very exciting finishes at the big tracks. There's a balance. The sport has to be able to get out there to people in Kansas or maybe the northwest some day or whatever and we might have to build new tracks for that.
But as long as we get to race at places like this and Darlington, the tracks that have been on the schedule for a long time, I think that's a good balance there.
Q. Where three of the next four at intermediate tracks, how do you see that panning out trying to catch Jimmie, or at least leveling it out a little bit?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, if we run the way I believe we can run at the next two, without having any bad luck, we should be pretty tough.
But Jimmie has been running real well at those places, too. If you look at what happened at Lowe's, I'm not sure where he finished, but I think it was ninth, seventh or ninth or something like that.
CARL EDWARDS: Sixth? Well, that's pretty good. That's not going to make a good point there. (Laughter). Ninth?
Well, let's see he finishes tenth and we win the next four, we could catch him, it would be pretty close, I don't know. I'm done worrying about it. I've got to worry about, we have got to get all the points we can, and Jimmie is going to do the same.
Q. Greg was talking about how he had never had as good of breaks here since he's ever competed here. Is that in part why you said you were as good this weekend?
CARL EDWARDS: I did have real good brakes. I don't know if we did something a little different. I know the guys have been working really hard on making sure that we don't waste any of the cooling energy. So that's good.
But it takes the whole package here. It started off with qualifying being rained out and giving us a spot up front. I think we could have qualified pretty well this time.
But starting out up front is a big deal. Pit strategy is big and obviously like deal was saying, the breaks, it's really easy to ruin the breaks here on all of those long runs, and definitely a key I think to running well here.
KERRY THARP: Carl, appreciate it is. Enjoyed watching you race today.
End of FastScripts