NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Post-Race Transcript
An interview with:
DALE EARNHARDT JR.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by our race-winning crew chief, Greg Ives.
It was 2013 at Talladega that you won your first win as a crew chief. You went on to win the NASCAR Xfinity championship with Chase Elliott. You have now won your first race as a Cup crew chief. Talk about that transition and what it means to come home with the win.
GREG IVES: I'm glad somebody keeps track of all those stats because it goes out of my mind pretty quickly. It means a lot when you're working for an organization like Hendrick Motorsports, to have the support and backing of Mr. Hendrick, it has to mean a lot. If it doesn't, you're not thankful for your position and for your job.
Whether it's crew chief, whether it was sweeping floors, I'll work any day for that man, so it means a lot to me.
THE MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about officially being locked into the Chase. What does that mean to the team?
GREG IVES: You can always say it's a relief. When you win the race, you can't fall back on the laurels of that win. I'm not going to be satisfied with just one win and kind of locking ourselves in. We got to go into this summer season strong with a lot of momentum, preparing for that Chase now.
It's just one of those things that we're going to keep on pushing. Yes, it's great that we have this win. But, you know, we got to step up our program on the short tracks, try to get a win there. Also we need to continue what we've been building on intermediate-wise. We feel we've been very good there, have a little bit of work to do. We have to be good all around so when we get to the Chase we're contenders.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Greg.
Q. Was there a chance you weren't going to be here today for the race?
GREG IVES: Yeah, I was actually just talking to my daughter. She's being discharged from the hospital right now. She had a very significant break to her right arm, right above her elbow, had to get three pins last night.
Dale offered to fly me home, that it would be okay if I missed the race. She's my biggest fan, my biggest critic as well. I asked her if she wanted me to come home. She said no, it was my job to go out there and try to win the race. That's the only thing that's going to satisfy her.
Like I said, after Richmond when we didn't perform as well as we did, she told me I need to give Dale better racecars because he can't win with one like that.
She's pretty tough on me for an eight-year-old. That's good. That's what we need. We need self-assurance that we're doing the right thing, but at times we also need a kick in the butt.
Q. Greg, final lap, what was your physical and mental condition?
GREG IVES: Probably the same as lap one. I try to stay as even-keeled as possible, try not to get too high or too low. Sometimes that hurts us. If Dale is one way or the other, I try to be the opposite of him at that point.
He's like me. He likes to operate at a steady, even keel. When he gets excited, I have to calm him down. When he's down, I got to pick him back up.
I knew he was in good hands. T.J. was giving him good direction. I had no worry, honestly, that we weren't going to pull it off as long as we came off of turn two where we needed to be.
With all the wrecking and all that stuff going on, it got some excitement as far as if they're going to throw the caution. NASCAR did a great job to make sure we competed all the way to the end.
It's everyone that cars got wrecked at the end. If they were out of harm's way, if the drivers in the car were all right, that's what they need to do. If that would have meant we got beat, then we got beat.
Like I said, try to stay as level as possible. Yeah, there's excitement inside me, there's excitement that we got this win, but I was pretty happy.
Q. Greg, Dale has spoken a few times this season about how winning last year at the Daytona 500 allowed Steve to be more aggressive on pit road and it paid off because they were going to get wins along the way. He kind of missed that, it sounded like. Are you thinking about that at all? How is that going to change your mindset at the top of the pit box going forward?
GREG IVES: If you look back at Vegas, I knew it was going to be tough trying to beat the 4 car. The only way we could do that is if I put a special set of right sides on and took the seven seconds I got back from running four, instead of putting on four, to try to pad that lead a little bit.
We weren't able to get it done, finished fourth or fifth. It didn't work out, right?
I think I've been trying to be as aggressive as I could. When we had the incidents at Phoenix and Martinsville where we finished 43rd and 36th, I probably remember those ones more than I remember our good runs, but I knew I had to take somewhat of a different approach. You had to kind of points race a little bit, you had to try to maintain your top-10 runs, and you couldn't take the risk of the two tires or fuel only, doing something different.
Now that gives me that opportunity to go back to when we tried to start at the beginning of the year, just a little bit of bad runs hurt that mentality. We're going to adjust. We're going to do what we need to do to try to win more. Hopefully that's with fast racecars. You don't even have to worry about strategy at that point. You just go out there and wax 'em.
Q. Greg, can you describe what it felt like. I know television said you were very emotional when the race was over. Also your reaction to the grandstands.
GREG IVES: You know the number one thing to do is lead all practices, however that may be, qualify on the pole, win the race here. That's the support we get here. That's the support from the fans.
When you have 43 racecars going by, you still hear the crowd cheering, you can see them jumping up in the stands, that puts a chill around you.
As far as being emotional, yeah, of course, it's my first win as a Cup crew chief, first win thinking about things that are more than just racecars, whether it's my daughter, whether it's my mom, all those sorts of things. That's going to weigh on you.
You work hard to get to a point to be in Victory Lane no matter where it is, what it is. That all gathers up in one lap or one race, you're going to have that.
I'm excited. I'm happy. I feel great about where this race team's going. Obviously I haven't cried yet, so that's good. But I definitely was emotional about it, happy about it. Like I said, just thinking about my daughter with a broken arm, her being tough enough to not want her daddy, that's pretty cool.
Q. How did she break her arm and can you talk about maybe the helplessness feeling you felt the last 24 hours.
GREG IVES: She was being a kid. She was playing, having fun, playing with her friends. I fell out of plenty of the trees. I actually broke my wrist.
She fell out of a swing set, just landed awkwardly. She didn't really recall everything. I haven't really got to talk to her about it. I just know she broke it.
Like I said, she didn't cry one bit. I asked my wife. I talked to her. I thought she would start bawling. She didn't. She said it hurt but she wasn't going to cry about it.
I talked to somebody this morning. It was like, every time I feel like I'm helpless being on the road or away from my family, I think of all those military folks, men, women and children, all those families that are affected by the things that are out of our control. Those military families who sacrifice their time, whether it's a month, six months, or years away from their families so we can do something like this. That helplessness only makes me show more appreciation for what we get to do every weekend as a great nation, how appreciative we need to be for them.
Q. Greg, being at Hendrick Motorsports, you understand the popularity of the 88 car. Could you have anticipated the type of pressure that came along, particularly on the bad days where you struggled this year? How have you dealt with that?
GREG IVES: As far as pressure goes, I think of it as an opportunity to improve. That's how this team looks at it right now. We look at the pressure. What Junior Nation says on our bad days is nothing less than what my daughter will tell me when I get home. They're going to have great things to say, they're going to have bad things to say. The honesty is what I want. I don't care about fluff and buff. I want the honesty. I want the truth. I want to know we're going to get better. That is the only way this team is going to be in competition when it comes down to Homestead. That's the only way we're going to grow. Honesty, that's what I want.
Q. Back to the helpless part. How big was your concern level when those temperatures were going crazy?
GREG IVES: I think Dale had some more heightened concern than I did. I wasn't doing anything about it. We saw races last year where people tried to get the debris off and hurt their chances of getting a win. I was not going to have that happen. I would rather leave here 35th than give up an opportunity to win for a little bit of debris.
Hendrick Motorsports builds great engines, drive lines, chassis. I rely on them every time I show up at the racetrack.
I wasn't getting a thumbs up from Scottie Maxim, but he's pretty honest when we need to do something about it. I probably wouldn't listen anyways.
Q. Greg, when you look back on the day, did you learn anything about the team or about Dale today that maybe you didn't know?
GREG IVES: There's a lot of new things when you're coming into the team, whether it's the pit crew, the road guys, Dale himself, T.J., you know, you always have that feeling. This helps that scenario or that session kind of get by a little bit quicker.
You know, the decision to be the first one to pit road under green at lap I think it was 154 or 155 was a decision made not just by myself but through a conversation I had with my engineers. We were talking about wanting to be the first ones on pit road. We didn't want to be caught with a yellow out, somebody else being able to leapfrog us. Over 20, 30 laps we were going through different scenarios, how much fuel we needed, when we were going to pit, how that was going to dictate where we're going to line up, whether we would go a lap down if we didn't get enough cars with us.
To be honest with you, it was that conversation that helped us come to pit road. We didn't hear a lot of people chattering about coming at lap 154, 155. We started a conversation amongst ourselves, talked with our teammates on the 48 with Chad and Jimmie. We knew we had at least one.
Right there, that's telling me that I need to have confidence in my team, not that I didn't before, but we need to have those conversations. If we do, we're going to be better collectively and go on to potentially win races.
Q. At what point prior to the start of this race did you start feeling that victory was yours and your teams to grab?
GREG IVES: Here or anywhere?
GREG IVES: Here? When it got put on the schedule, you know. That's what I'm thinking.
Any race put on the schedule, we need to win at. That's my mentality. I feel like when this started not just yesterday, not Friday morning, not even Thursday, this started when we had that victory at Daytona in the 150s. That gave a confidence boost for Steve who heads up our speedway program, that we're on the right path. He always does a great job with the cars. As far as I'm hard on myself, he's just as hard on himself. Perfection is what we want.
When we left qualifying yesterday and we were fourth, we were not happy about it. We weren't looking for excuses on why; we were looking for reasons to be better next time. It felt like we were going to have a solid car. But, you know, like I said, the feeling that we could be victorious here didn't start on Friday or Thursday, it started when we got that first win at Daytona.
THE MODERATOR: Greg, congratulations on your victory today.
GREG IVES: Thank you very much.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale, it's been 11 years since you pulled into Victory Lane at Talladega. You earned your sixth victory at this track today. Talk a little bit about the emotion after you crossed the start/finish line, what it meant to you to have all the fans here today celebrating with you.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I felt like we had a lot of supporters here because of dad's success. He won so many races here.
I think about all the races he won here and at Daytona. I love when we go to Victory Lane because I feel like I add to his legacy there. All I ever want to do is make him proud. I feel like when we win at those tracks where he was successful, that's exactly what we're doing.
I don't really get to think about him that much. His birthday came and went. Today, it made me think about his birthday, how much I miss him, how much he meant to me and so many more people that I can't even fathom the number of folks that he had a relationship with in this sport, a connection with, all his fans out there really enjoyed seeing him compete here.
Also the emotion of making the Chase. I don't think that people really appreciate the pressure that's on these teams to get into the Chase and get these wins. We also have a new partner with Nationwide that I want to get to Victory Lane and want to get into the Chase. I want to be able to relieve that pressure off my crew and crew chief so that they can work through the rest of the summer with ease of mind that they're in the Chase.
So that also brings on a lot of emotion, having gone through it last year. Getting that win early, that really spoiled us. This year, a little harder to come by. It made me really appreciate that.
I miss my family. Can't wait to get home. I love racing here and winning here. It's some of the hardest racing that we do on a mental scale. It's very difficult. You're about 80, 94 laps in, you're just getting halfway, and you feel like you've been racing for 10 hours, you're only halfway. You think to yourself, How much is left in the tank mentally to get to the rest of the race, and the hard stuff hasn't even really started yet.
I don't know. It just seems like when I was younger, it was easier to win these races. The racing and drafting's a lot different today. Still, when I was young, I was real naïve. The mental part of it I did on a whim. Now I probably overanalyze everything. Probably overwork everything I do in the race. But it will wear you out.
Luckily it worked out like it did. I felt like before the race started, I needed to be leading at the end, it's real hard to pass the leader, so I felt like I was in a good position being in the lead. I just needed to run the line that I felt could sustain and calm everything behind me. I didn't want to see, you know, lines forming and guys coming and going and making runs. Sometimes if we get up against the wall, everybody sort of lulls into this pattern, and it's real difficult for those guys to put anything together underneath that high line. Sometimes it works for the low line, but it takes a lot of work.
I also knew Jimmie behind me wasn't going to move any sooner than the last lap. We raced here before. I knew he would wait till the end because that was his best chance to win and not ruin the race for both of us. When he started to put things together, the guys behind him wanted to pass him instead of push him.
When I saw that, I felt like things were looking better. Just had a little more racetrack to get around. Finally we got off of four, got to the tri-oval, felt like we were okay if the motor didn't break. Something told me about 200 yards before the finish line, the engine was going to break. Sometimes that's what happens in racing, ain't it? Seems like that what happens sometimes, but we got to the end.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Dale.
Q. Last year you said you weren't going to wait in the back, you wanted to get out front. Did that play into your strategy today, leading the most laps out here?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, last year I waited in the back expecting a wreck. I just was real ashamed of that choice, felt like I really wasted my team's time and everybody's hard work.
I was just really, really ashamed of that. So I got a run up in there, even if I wreck, we're in the middle of it, we're going to be racing for the lead or trying to anyways. That's my mentality till I don't race anymore.
Q. Jimmie said he was most impressed today with your drive through traffic, you were a man that was not going to be denied today. Was this as much having a good car as being the man who was not going to be denied today?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I certainly hope it was a little bit me. But I know it was a lot racecar. I appreciate that. That's a hell of a compliment coming from a champion like him.
The car gives you the confidence to make the moves that make you look good. But it's the car really making it all happen.
But you got to know what to do with it. You got to put it in those situations where it can excel, you know, and it can do the things it's capable of doing. It just don't happen on its own.
I think all drivers out there, you see things that they do, you learn from them, you put little things in your pocket that you see happen or something that you do that surprises you. You just add it all up at the end and hopefully you got the moves you need to make and you make the right ones.
I've made so many right moves and so many wrong moves. Today we didn't make any bad ones, not too many, I guess. We had such a fast car. I don't know what the feedback was on the qualifying session this weekend. I tell you, going through that system, that format, really gives the guys who qualify well so much confidence.
We can't see how good our cars are at raw speed when you're out there drafting in practice or when we're qualifying like we had been in the past, in the pack. When you qualify alone, so to speak, you really get so much confidence when you qualify well.
We do got a fast car. Look at how much faster we are than these other guys. The confidences is so important because these races at the plate tracks are so mental. You build that confidence up throughout the weekend, go out and practice, practice hard, try to race hard in practice and do things that give yourself confidence in your car. You go out there and qualify well, you feel real good and prepared when the race begins.
Q. I know you talked about your relationship with T.J. before, how much that contributes to your success. He was saying that the friendship that you have had over the years, how often you guys talk during the week, might give you a little bit of a leg up over other spotters who just see their driver every weekend, don't have the ongoing communication. Does that help you at all, especially a place like this where it seems to take an extra step up with the driver/spotter relationship?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I hate to claim him as a brother, but we're pretty close. That's exactly what it is. We spend so much time around each other. He's the commissioner in this XBOX Madden league. Every team is controlled by a human. We're on this chat, messages app. He's the commissioner. He runs the games. He and I talk every day about racing Madden or whatever. He has a new dog. Madeleine is a fan of mine. He brings her by to look at the fish in the fishbowl or play with Gus or whatever. We're around each other all the time.
He knows exactly what I'm looking for. I don't ever have to say, Quit doing it that way, this is what I want, stop using that language or that terminology, I don't understand. He doesn't bug me. He doesn't do things that get me irate or get me off my game.
One of the things I like about him from the start is he's really monotone. Most great spotters are real even keel no matter what's happening. The longer we've worked together, the closer we've been as friends, he knows exactly what I need. When I'm listening to him, it's like I can see the race happening behind me without even looking in the mirror. That's so helpful.
There were a couple times today he cleared me when I wasn't clear. He wants me to get clear. He wants me to get up in front of those guys. He thinks they're going to check up. He gets pretty aggressive sometimes, which I like that about him. He's very competitive.
I say it a lot. I know a lot of drivers say it, too. The spotter is as important as the driver and crew chief at this place or Daytona. He really earned his paycheck this week.
Q. In listening to your opening statement, what was the most intense moment of the race today?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: You know, so much happens and you're so focused on what you're doing, wanting to do, about to do, it's like you can't record it. You can't put it in memory.
I need to go watch the race to remember how it happened. There's just some passes that you make, you're not sure if you're clear, you make these things on instinct. You went by a car, and you're mentally understanding the speed you passed him when you would clear him. You just move, you know.
Those are hairy because sometimes you might guess wrong and get turned around. I'll tell you one of the things that's crazy about this track, since they repaved it. Somebody paved the front straightaway wrong. Yeah, there's like two aprons. There's progressive banking from the bottom groove into the next three grooves. It's just one little, you know, ditch. Man, our right rears get hung in that thing. It yanks the car around. It gets so loose through there. When you got a guy up your butt, one on the side of the your car, one in front, no air on your car, the car is hovering through there. You're just trying to keep it from wrecking.
You don't see it. You can't visually see this watching the cars, man, but they are a handful coming through the tri-oval because of that little imperfection in the track.
I'd love to get in front of guy who paved this place just to talk to him a little bit about it. They did an amazing job, aside from that small little mistake. 'Cause I don't believe that was intentional. It wasn't like that before. But it's interesting, for sure.
When we're leading, sometimes we run a lane up through the tri-ovals. That's just to stay out of that ditch. It steers the car. It's like a rut that grabs the back of the car and takes it.
Q. The last 10 plus years, the concussion, you talked about being ashamed of the race here, how many times you've been fast, things didn't happen for whatever reason. How frustrating had this track become? How did it impact you, especially when you talk about the emotion of wanting to do well because of your dad to continue that legacy?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I leave here more disappointed than I do other tracks when we don't win the race. I try not to get satisfied with just leading a lot of laps. I feel like the fans want to see us up front. They love to see us win the race, but they want to see us lead every lap. They get excited when we take the lead. They're happy when we're up front. They want us up front every lap. I mean, I feel that.
You'll get up there and get the lead. You know you're delivering upon the promise that you're going to run hard and run good. You just can't get satisfied, you know, 'cause, like I say, you're slowly emptying the tank, that mental tank. You got to hope there's enough at the end to be able to do everything you need to do, you know, to make the win happen. It takes a lot. It's tough. I think it's tougher the older I get.
The cars are such a challenge now to draft with than they used to be. Man, we had so much power. We were just driving around guys in the (indiscernible) days. Now everybody is stuck on top of each other. It's real hard to get away from people.
I felt bad that we would wreck, not run well, lay back in several events. Coming here and not knowing what the right thing to do was after winning five races, having so much success, coming here and not knowing what the hell to do, that felt so foreign because we'd been so confident for so many years.
I got my confidence back now. I know what I need to do, and that's run hard, not lay back, not worry about crashing out, bad points. I'd rather crash and not finish well trying than to be riding around in the back. Certainly hard lesson to learn, but I learned it.
Q. Last time you were in Victory Lane here in Cup, you said a bad word, got you the penalty. Did you cuss in Victory Lane today?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I did. I think it's okay this time, though, because it's a different time. I cussed earlier this year and it wasn't a big deal. I was talking to the guys, I wasn't talking to the camera. But the camera was right there, one slip.
Fortunately times have changed a little bit. FCC is not on anybody's case anymore. We don't have to worry about it.
Even if they did take a few points away, we're still locked in the Chase, so not too worried about it, I guess. I knew when I said it, it's like, man, just something about this place that just brings it out, yeah.
Q. Greg was in here a minute ago, talking about his daughter breaking her arm, you offering to fly him back to North Carolina. Talk about that a little bit. What was it like having him on the pit box today?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Not being a father, I felt like that maybe I wanted to give him that opportunity to choose to go Homestead of feeling like an obligation to be here. I didn't know, not being a father, whether he wanted to be at home.
This race is a little less challenging to call than other events. We're going to take two tires pretty much every time. We're going to get as much gas as we need but never fill it up. It's pretty self-explanatory. I felt like Kevin could have called the race just as easy and just as well. Kevin is a real, real talent just waiting to bust out and get an opportunity to crew chief.
So I felt like if there was ever a weekend that Greg could comfortably go home without any guilt, he could have done it last night without a problem. We'd have fueled up the plane and sent him.
The break was real low right near the elbow. It looked scary. There's not a lot of bone above the elbow to really do any pins, to work with. That's a difficult area to break a bone. But he says she's tough as nails. She didn't even cry or anything. She told him not to come home. She was mad at him last week for the car we took to Richmond. I'm sure he told y'all about it.
After the Richmond race, I went into the hauler. I'm like, Man, why are you so down? It wasn't a great day, but we got to stay positive. These guys get real affected by our moods. We can't stomp and kick or pout. We got to tell these people out here loading this car we're going to show up next week.
He was worried about what she was going to tell him when he got home because she's been hard on him. That's probably good, she keeps him honest.
Q. The slip of the tongue notwithstanding, the emotion in Victory Lane seemed different than the last time you won here. More introspective instead of that super giddy guy the last time you won here. How much different are those two versions of you from the last time you won here?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Most wins you sort of pop like a bottle of champagne and everything pours out really fast. You're super happy.
This win had a lot of responsibility behind it with Greg being the new crew chief. We got a lot of new guys over the wall, new guys in the garage. A lot of changes. Brand-new sponsor, a lot of pressure there, trying to get those guys to Victory Lane. My dad's birthday. A lot of things really happen at once when we cross the finish line. The pressure of trying to get in the Chase, knowing we're locked in. Such a relief.
Just winning. You just want to win. You want to win as often as possible. So this was really emotional. I don't really get too emotional about wins. I get excited and super happy about them. But this one was certainly different. Just being at Talladega, I love this racetrack, the history here.
Q. What is Greg's daughter's name?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: That's a good question.
THE MODERATOR: Her name is Payton.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Peyton Manning, I'll never forget it.
Q. Were you surprised by how much of the race was single file?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: No, not really. I mean, we see that here at times. I was actually surprised at how much racing we were doing. Figured it would be single file more than it was.
There's a lot of guys that were feisty and ready to move up, trying to get the lead, trying to get to the front. Seemed like between the 48 and myself and the 24, we were doing a great job of maintaining the front.
So, you know, I think there's a lot of competition between the manufacturers, but also more so the owners, the individual companies. That was showing more than I've seen in the past, I think.
I was surprised, yeah, about how much racing was going on. I was enjoying the racing. I was definitely happy when we went single file the last 20 laps. I knew I only had to worry about one lap, and that was the last one. As it wound down, I felt more and more comfortable that that was the case.
Those guys up in the top five, top six felt like even on the last lap with a move, they felt they were in a position to win the race. That's why everybody stayed so patient.
Q. Your fans have been pretty vocal about Jimmie Johnson owing you one here, owing you something here for as many times as you pushed him to the win. Do you feel the debt was paid today?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I don't think we owe each other anything other than to treat each other like men and professionals. I think a lot of people in here know this. Maybe not everybody out in the world knows it. Jimmie is a better person than he is a teammate. He's a great teammate, an amazing guy, great family man, great friend. We've been friends for a really long time, before we ever worked together.
I feel fortunate to be able to work with someone who makes my work easier. He does. He makes my job easier. He's an easy guy to work with. All the other guys in the shop feel that way. He's won and been so successful, but he's really remained grounded, real approachable, easygoing individual. I think that's remarkable and I appreciate that about him.
Yeah, I don't know how many times I've actually pushed him to a win. My fans maybe feel like it's three or four times, but I think it was really only once. They are very critical of Jimmie. I've sensed that and read that as well. He takes it in stride. He does really well with that criticism.
I think I'm fortunate to be his teammate because I've certainly become a better driver being around him, learning from him. You got to be open-minded to everything around you. He's certainly helped me improve.
Q. The emotion in Victory Lane, what struck me is one of the things you said about how good your personal life is, you don't feel like you deserve it. What bad things have you been doing that you don't think you deserve it? It sounds like your introspective of that, given it thought. Why are things so good for you?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I think the part I feel I don't think I deserve is the racing side of it. There's just not many second chances. I feel like if my name wasn't Earnhardt that I wouldn't have had the second chance. I feel like I owe my second chance to my dad, his legacy, because the way I ran from '09 through those years till 2011 or so, I feel I didn't deserve to be kept around or hung onto.
But I'm glad that it worked out. I certainly felt like in the right situation I could have success. But you just don't know whether you're going to get that opportunity.
I watched a lot of sons follow a lot of fathers, regardless of the profession, and just have a real challenge of it. That is the part I feel like I'm fortunate about.
I mean, I definitely feel fortunate in my personal life. Amy and I have gotten so close. It sounded like a great idea at the time, but earlier this week we decided she would do some work on the house and stay home. About 9:00 this morning, it was the worst idea. I was miserable that she wasn't here.
It just proves to me how much she means to me and how important she is to me. She's been a big help in getting me out of my shell. We were joking about it with Darrell Waltrip, that I just never come out of the bus all weekend. When I go home, I'd sit on the computer and race online. My buddies would call and text me, we're going here, going there. I would never go, I'll see you guys next time.
I thought I was having fun, but I was really miserable. She's made my life a whole lot more enjoyable and showed me how to have fun and showed me there's a lot more to life.
My sister and I are getting along great. My mother and I are getting along great. Everything is in the right direction. Everybody is happy. I guess that's the way it's supposed to be, but I feel real lucky because that's the case. I know a lot of people aren't at fortunate.
Hopefully it just keeps getting better.
Q. On Friday we talked about paralysis by analysis, everybody overthinking things. Did you rely on that? You talked about lulling them to sleep with the single file line.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I would have been the same way if I were in the line behind the leader. You get up there, you see guys pull out, get shuffled to the back. You just know that is a real possibility, super real that that could happen. Man, if you get back there, you don't have a chance. If you're sitting third, fourth, whatever, you're sitting there thinking, This ain't a bad spot. If I got to wait till the last lap, see what these guys in front of me end up doing, this is probably not a bad place to be.
If you can count on them top five or six doing that, it's going to come down to the later laps, the last two or the last lap. That way, again, like you only have to deal with one challenge. That's the move that they save up for. Jimmie was talking about he was thinking he needed to make a move over in three and four. I'd run all day long to have to fend off one guy off of three and four instead of 20 of 'em. When they're three-wide, each line is coming, T.J. is telling you how they're coming, got to get in front of each line, all that, it's tough. That's not how you like to finish 'em because you got a chance of finishing anywhere from first to 20th in that kind of a pack. The way we ran that race today, you got a chance of being first to fifth or so, at worst fifth place. That's definitely a lot easier on your mind.
I think we get up top, run around there. Everybody is like, Man, I don't want to pull back, I could probably go to the back. I'll wait. Somebody else is going to do something stupid. I don't want to do it. Somebody else is going to do it, then I'm going to benefit.
Nobody really made the move. I figured Denny would. He moved down. He's always pretty proactive. He moved down. When he got a run on the 48, instead of pushing him, he tried to get around him. I was like, Perfect. That's not helping Jimmie.
Then the 27 got up there. They were in great position 'cause they were tight through three and four. I had too big a lead. I was like, Man, if he pushes him, he'll go right by me. The 27 tried to get out on his quarter panel. He had to defend. I'm thinking, Perfect, they're not going to get a run at all. I was pretty surprised they didn't form up. Several chances there in the last two laps and it just didn't happen. It's more luck than anything that it didn't work out that way.
Q. You talked in your opening statement about how different the drafting is than years ago. Describe how it's different.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: The cars get different runs. They're slower, they're lazy. The runs we used to get years ago, man, you'd fly by guys, just dominate. The runs that the cars get, even with the great cars we have, are real lazy. You really aren't sure it's a run you need to take advantage of or not.
Just thinking back, I made about three real power moves. Those are the three power move opportunities that I had. Maybe 10 years ago you would get 20 of those in a race. The cars just were way more active, reactive to each other.
Another thing about this particular car is they get stuck side-by-side. The side draft is so powerful that basically you get on the guy's quarter panel, you start side drafting him to slingshot by him, he can counter you by side drafting you. You go nowhere.
The leader's hard to pass. He just pulls in front of the line that's coming and that pushes him on out. The line don't continue to come up to the leader where they can make a move to go around him. We call it the beach ball, it's giant. Shoves the leader out. You don't get as many opportunities on runs that are successful to pull out and pass the leader. You end up shoving him away.
That's why leading is the place to be. It was the place to be in the Daytona 500 a year ago. It's the place to be today I felt like.
Q. In his last victory, your dad went from 18th to first in the final five laps. It's fair to say this track's reputation was built on that kind of racing. Are those days over? Is there any way to get it back?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: If we could, we would. If we knew what makes the best package, we would put it on the cars. I know we would.
But the cars evolve. They always have. We went from big old tanks in the late '70s to the downsized '81 cars, into Monte-Carlos, big old Thunderbirds. The cars just continue to get smaller, bigger, taller, shorter, the sides get flatter, the quarter panels get longer. The cars are just always changing. That alters how they draft.
I don't know, and I don't think anyone knows, really what affects the side draft. If you asked all the drivers, they would tell you it's something different. Probably get 35, 43 different answers. 20 of them would sound really good.
We did win today, so I'm a little okay with how the car raced today, but sometimes they can be frustrating. They can be very, very frustrating.
We've won a lot of races in the past because we had the best car, we really did. Maybe if I was driving someone else's car back then, I wouldn't have liked it that much then. You know what I'm saying? But we had such great cars and that's why we won today. Had fun today. My car did everything I wanted it to do. When it doesn't, you're stuck without any offense, you're doing more defense, it's a long day. You don't like the package, you don't like the draft, you don't like the way the cars react. It's probably more often not your own car's fault.
Q. You've talked a lot about your dad today. Do you have a particular memory of you and your dad here at Talladega that sticks out in your mind?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Hmm. I don't know. No, I don't. I'd have to think real hard. We didn't have a lot of success here in the Nationwide, Busch cars. We always seemed to wreck.
I don't know. I think even in the Cup car we had a lot of trouble the first couple trips. I think on the first time I raced here, I qualified sixth or something, and daddy was up there. I got a bad run on the restart and had to hit the brakes. Locked up the tire, blew the left front out. Just had a terrible day.
What I remember about this place that I like the most, my favorite memories were when we would come here, I'd go to Johnny Ray's house, play on three-wheelers all week. We'd get a hundred bucks, me and Scottie Williams, Mike, Brad Means, we'd go to the go-kart track and spend a hundred bucks Friday and Saturday night running go-karts. There was a go-kart track by the interstate.
We was talking about this today, me and someone. Everyone stayed at the hotel. You'd get done on Friday, go back to the hotel. All the crew chiefs, drivers, all the crewmen, everybody was coming back to the hotel. So you saw everybody at the hotel walking around. It was just a different time.
I remember talking to Flossie Johnson. We had drivers meeting. I remember talking to her one time when I was really young. She stopped me and wanted to talk to me. I didn't know who she was till she told me. That was pretty cool.
I told this story several times. When the race would start, we would wait for the wrecked cars to come in because we loved climbing all over the wrecked cars. The car engine was just amazing to us. People would leave so much stuff laying around, like brand-new box of bubble goggles, brand-new packages of Champion sparkplugs, glass cleaner, brake clean. Brad and I would box all that up and take it over to his daddy's truck. We'd get it because it was just going to end up in the trash or somewhere because the garage would be completely empty during the race. It was that old overhang garage. It was open. We didn't really watch the races. We just watched when the crashed cars come in, walk around those things 40 times looking at every dent. Just being kids.
It was so much fun coming here. This was a great racetrack to come to when I was a kid. You could run around pretty much anywhere you wanted, do whatever you wanted.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, we appreciate your time this afternoon.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Thank you. Had such a good day. Appreciate it.