NASCAR Post-Race Transcript
An interview with:
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our race-winning crew chief, Greg Ives. You've officially earned your first win with Dale Jr. and the 88 team. Talk a little bit about the Duel race and having an opportunity to celebrate in Victory Lane.
GREG IVES: Am I in the Chase now (laughter)?
THE MODERATOR: Not yet.
GREG IVES: Just a remarkable performance by Dale, all this Nationwide team, bringing strong racecars, Hendrick engines, Hendrick chassis. We got a 1-2-3 start coming on here. All the talent that we have at Hendrick Motorsports is a tribute to our finish tonight.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Greg.
Q. Your first race together, failing inspection, and your second one ends up in Victory Lane. Talk about what that means.
GREG IVES: Actually, the failed inspection was qualifying. The Unlimited was the first race together. We had a good race going. Had some debris on the grille out front leading. Unfortunately we had debris tonight, but temperatures were optimum.
The relationship is gelling as quick as I knew it would. When you bring great attitude, have some fun at the racetrack, have good finishes like today, you're going to gel pretty quickly.
We're going to continue that going into this week and the 500.
Q. Greg, you hit on the relationship. Do you have any sort of feel for how much better or closer you guys can get as you get to know each other, spend more time?
GREG IVES: Yeah, definitely. I don't think where even close to where we need to be. But we have a good start going. I feel like some of that start is just our friendship relationship. We're building our working relationship.
I feel like there's areas I'm going to have to improve big-time. There's areas that Dale and I are slowly growing and continuing to make better. It's just going to keep on flourishing from here. This is a great way to make that happen.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by our race winner of the first Duel, Dale Jr.
Dale, talk a little bit about the race, how the car performed, then obviously getting the victory.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We knew the car was really fast when we got on the track Sunday with the car. I've had cars that have been real fast in the single-car runs and not draft well, then I've had cars that run real slow by themselves and draft awesome.
It finishes a lot of moves. It kind of surprised me. It does a couple things that surprised me out there in the race. So I felt like the car made the job a lot easier.
Greg and those guys should be real proud of the effort and the work they done in the off-season to bring such a good racecar here.
Wasn't a whole lot else to it. Just trying to get up through there was a lot of fun. Holding the lead's real hard to do. I think everybody's pretty vulnerable out front to people getting runs. I was hoping I'd get up front and kind of tow the pack a little bit. We had to kind of breakaway a little bit. I was hoping to get the six-, seven-car train distance away from the track, but a caution came out.
Just a great car. Real proud of Greg. T.J. Majors did an awesome job as a spotter. Got to give him a ton of credit for being able to give me the information the last several laps to understand who I needed to be in front of to get the pushes and keep the momentum in my car going and allowing me to maintain the lead.
He did a real good job, especially the last lap. I had so many damn cars in the mirror, I couldn't count them, especially on the last lap. Through three and four, looked like they were all over the back of the car. T.J. did a good job of helping me understand where I needed to be.
GREG IVES: You can almost go back through the audio, everything looked so good. I was sitting back, enjoying listening to T.J. talk because he was doing a great job.
Q. Dale, how much confidence does this kind of give you going forward to Sunday?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I don't think it boosts our confidence a lot. Winning the Daytona 500 is a real challenge. The challenge didn't get easier tonight.
One thing I am happy about is being able to get this car through the Duels without any trouble because it's such a good racecar. We'll be very careful throughout the rest of track activities the remainder of the week.
I'm just excited to be able to put this car on the grid for Sunday. I wouldn't want to be driving anything else. The car's so spectacular, it's just going to be great. A proud moment to put it on the grid because I think it's such a good racecar.
The one thing that I think it might help, when I have been down here and had really, really good cars, was able to show that in practice or a Duel or whatever, it does tend to let the field see that you do have a fast car, and if they do tend to draft with you, they might go somewhere.
When I come up on a car, there's two things that I think about: I either think he's an obstacle or slow, or I think maybe he's a fast car, do I want to help that guy and work with him to get by somebody maybe he's beside or somebody he's racing.
When you're able to kind of show the field, show your competitors that you got some speed, they can be confident if they get with you they're going somewhere.
Tends to make Sunday a little easier where you might get more drafting help. I've been down here with cars that weren't very good and they don't got confidence that you're going anywhere.
Q. Dale, with such a good car, does it give you confidence that on Sunday if you are in the middle of a hairy situation, you can drop back and have the confidence to know you can get yourself back to the front quickly?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I suppose. I don't want to have to drop back if I don't have to. We got hung back in the middle on the early part of that race. When my car's competitive, I don't want to be in that bottom groove because I'm just going to sit there and be stuck.
Tonight, though, the car was so strong, I felt like if I sat there and waited and waited and waited, eventually I was going to get in a situation aero-wise that would help me get through there, and it did.
Hopefully I make good decisions on Sunday and we don't get ourselves in any trouble or get ourselves in any situation where we feel like we got to back up. I feel anytime you go, I don't want to get in the middle of this, I want to get out of here, it's unnatural to do that as a driver.
Whenever you do do that, you don't have confidence in your car, you don't have confidence in what you're doing, the decisions you're making. It just kind of goes downhill from there. You don't really ever recover emotionally and mentally for the rest of the race.
We have a fast car. We can stay confident and keep moving forward in the race and stay on the offense.
Q. Going back to T.J. giving you that help, Jeff Gordon was in here a few minutes ago and said he feels like it's getting more and more difficult to out-maneuver people, especially when they're behind you. With the cars and the rules the same over the last couple years, are the spotters becoming more important to help you guys anticipate all those moves?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I'm not sure, but I know -- I don't like to give T.J. too many compliments (smiling). You know, he's so good. I think our friendship, us knowing each other a long time, we've worked together a while, a lot of times, I mean, tonight obviously, looking in the mirror quite a bit.
But Michigan, these other racetracks we go to, I don't even have to look in the mirror. I might go 60 laps without glancing at the mirror because the information is so good. I can almost see the image in my mind what's happening behind me because of how good T.J. is at describing it.
He's learned over the years how to understand when a run's happening half a lap before it forms. He can see things sort of forming and understand this lane's going to be coming, give me that information. So I'm ready, you know, before it's happening. I'm not making a nasty block late in the game. I'm actually, you know, preemptive and moving in front of the line that's going to be coming. I'm not really blocking these guys. I just hop in front of them, here they come, I get a shove, keep my momentum going.
He's just really, really good at it. Especially at the plate tracks. Particularly at the plate tracks he's real good.
We've been working together a long time. So it's enjoyable to have that trust in the guy on top of the building like that. I've worked with other spotters in the past that are good spotters, but I also know some of the guys up there that he's working with. I know he's miles better than half of them up there. I wouldn't want to be working with anybody else when it comes to being in that situation we were in.
That last lap, I don't know anybody else that could have done a better job than T.J.
Q. Now that you know for sure that you have a car that's fast enough to win the race, how does that change your routine for tomorrow and Saturday and what will that routine be?
GREG IVES: Really, now that we have the car that we want to race in the 500, it's not going to change in what I had in my mindset.
We're going to go as planned. Like I was telling Dale after the race, we have a couple items I want to go through to try to find a little bit more speed in single-car runs, go through those items and be done.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We won the race. Standing in Victory Lane he's giving me the rundown of what we're going to do Friday and Saturday in practice (smiling).
GREG IVES: I was a little nervous.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: He's giving me my schedule (laughter).
Q. Dale, can you describe the crossover move you made on Tony where you picked up Jeff Gordon and let him push you to the lead, towards the lead, on lap 14?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I was trying to get that bottom groove. I was trying to get those guys off of the bottom because I wanted to pass them on the inside.
The top line was actually coming. T.J. told me it was forming up in turn three and four. I slid up there. Here they come. Once I moved up there, I think Tony and a couple guys started fading towards the top as well.
I started to pick up the draft from the guys behind me. My car just took off like a rocket. I had such an awesome run, I needed to do something with it. Typically I'd be working with Tony. But that run propelled me past him and another car. It was too good of a run to pass up.
Our car's just been real strong. That surprised me, the way the car reacted to that. It surprised me. This car's been surprising me left and right.
We're side drafting guys. Typically we'll side draft them, then they'll side draft you as you're trying to make that pass. This car is finishing the passes that other cars haven't been able to finish. Real excited to see what we'll be able to do Sunday.